These "bad" foods won't weigh you down as much as you may think
Even though counting your calories and watching your weight can be difficult, it doesn't necessarily mean that to lose weight you must swear off some of your favorite foods forever. While our society has developed some firm convictions about which foods are "good" and "bad" for you, many of those ideas are, in the large part, wrong.
Some examples that come to mind right away are:
Historically, the French have far fewer problems with heart disease than Americans do, despite the fact that they have a high-fat diet, higher cholesterol levels, and smoke more. Researchers have concluded that this health protection comes from resveratrol, a component of red wine.
Numerous studies have demonstrated resveratrol's wide-ranging health benefits:
- It helps fight heart disease.
- It can protect against skin cancer, stomach cancer, liver disease, inflammation, and even pain.
- It can inhibit both the development and growth of cancer cells, as well as kill existing cancer cells.
- It can help control hot flashes, mood fluctuations, bone loss, and other menopausal symptoms.
- It lowers the risk of developing degenerative nervous system diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Enjoy a moderate amount of red wine—a glass or two in the evening—for some potentially far-reaching health benefits. It's also important to note that wine's ability to raise the good form of cholesterol (HDL) appears to be greatest when it is consumed with meals, which is when the French do most of their wine drinking. So raise your glass of red wine at dinnertime and you'll be toasting your good health!
The right chocolate can provide the same blood-thinning effect and heart attack protection as aspirin. The darker and closer to pure cocoa the better. The flavonols in cocoa can help improve blood flow, and the amount needed isn't that much.
Moderation is key, because many products contain more sugar and fat than cocoa beans. Look for a chocolate product that contains at least 60 percent cocoa solids (it'll say so on the label) and that has been minimally processed (alkali or “Dutch” processing removes much of the flavonol content from the cocoa powder). An ounce or two of dark chocolate a day is often enough to satisfy the urge.
Because eggs have a high cholesterol count, especially in their yolks, people decided it would be better to leave eggs off of their plates completely. This rash eviction of eggs from our everyday diet is completely unwarranted. Specific studies have shown that consuming moderate amounts of eggs doesn't affect cholesterol levels at all.
Egg yolks, which have taken the brunt of the egg-cholesterol controversy, are also one of the richest sources of choline—which keeps cholesterol in the egg moving through the bloodstream and doesn't allow it to stack up on arterial walls. Eggs are also rich in minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids, and other health–enhancing carotenoids (namely zeaxanthin and lutein). Plus, eggs contribute to the overall health of your eyes and help fight age-related macular degeneration.
Look for eggs from free-roaming chickens or eggs from flax-fed chickens, which contain greater amounts of healthy omega-3 oils than those raised on commercial feed.
Practically all components of butter have amazing healing and protective properties. Rich, dark yellow butter produced by cows on spring pastureland is best because it has a higher content of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E, and numerous trace minerals. Butter from grass-fed cows is also a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This nutrient may help promote healthy cardiovascular and immune system function, and help build lean muscle mass.
Butter also contains lecithin, the natural cholesterol emulsifier. Studies suggest that the phosphatidylcholine in lecithin increases the solubility of cholesterol, helps to remove cholesterol from tissue deposits, and inhibits platelet aggregation. Also, lecithin's choline component is useful in maintaining normal homocysteine levels, which is essential for healthy heart function.
Most incredibly, butter has stearic acid, a cardiovascular protector that lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, as well as lauric and myristic acids, which increase HDL (good) cholesterol. In fact, researchers have found that individuals who used butter had half the risk of developing heart disease compared to those who used margarine.
It may surprise some people to hear that drinking beer may have similar effects to those of red wine. Research shows that drinking beer helps keeps blood platelets from sticking together, which can help lower the risk of sticky platelets, a heart attack, or a stroke.
Certain pigmented antioxidants in both red wine and red grape juice have antiplatelet effects. However, unsurprisingly, white grape juice and white wine don't contain a high amount of these pigmented flavonoids and therefore don't afford the same protection as the darker varieties. Apparently, the same findings apply to light and dark beers.
The researchers found that drinking the dark, malty Guinness Extra Stout beer provided more protection than light-colored Heineken lager. So don't feel guilty in indulging in a beer or two, as it can have positive effects. Just make sure to choose dark beers, as those have the most benefit (not to mention the most flavor!).