One of the biggest challenges for those struggling to lose weight and improve fitness is giving up their favorite foods. However, some questionable dietary choices actually offer some nutritional benefits.
Foods high in calories, salt, sugar and saturated fats do pack on the pounds, and increase the risk of illness and disease. Consumed occasionally and in small servings, though, they can be part of a balanced diet that also features vitamins, minerals and other essential ingredients.
Studies have shown that vegetarians experience lower rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. But nutritionists also know that red meat contains vitamins, minerals and immune enhancers. The secret is to eat only three to five ounces of lean cuts per day.
Warnings about high cholesterol have persuaded many people to give up eggs. However, this breakfast staple provides protein, vitamins and minerals. The white part is much more nutritious, and has less fat and cholesterol, than the yolk.
In fear of obesity and heart disease, millions have switched from butter to margarine or other spreads. The problem is that such substitutes may pose even greater health hazards. Butter has significant amounts of Vitamin A, which improves brain function; Vitamin E, which wards off eye diseases and boosts immunity; and Vitamin K2, which helps prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Those seeking to lose weight are told to steer clear of potatoes because they are fattening and offer fewer nutritional benefits than many other vegetables. That said, a baked potato (with the skin) provides the full recommended daily serving of Vitamin C, 40 percent of the Vitamin B6 a person needs and seven grams of fiber. A potato contains twice as much potassium as a banana.
Nuts get a bad reputation because an average cupful has almost 300 calories and 25 grams of fat. The key is to limit daily consumption to a small handful. That is enough to help reduce the risk of high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease and gallstones. Nuts are loaded with protein and fiber.
Due to its addictive qualities, coffee is one of the hardest things to stop using. It can cause irritability and jitters. The positive side of coffee is its big doses of antioxidants, compounds that destroy the free radicals that cause heart disease, strokes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments.
Wine and Beer
These are other beverages that are widely considered unhealthy. But wine offers the powerful antioxidants resveratrol and quercetin. Drinking one or two beers a day may strengthen the brain, heart and bones.
While seeing this sweet snack on a list of healthy foods may come as a surprise, research has proven its worth. Cacao boasts one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any food. A 100-gram serving of chocolate with 70-85 percent cacao delivers 11 grams of fiber, and a majority of the recommended daily allowances of several minerals.