If you’re constantly counting calories while eagerly awaiting cheat day, stop stressing. As it turns out, there are some foods and drinks that, while thought to be unhealthy, are actually quite good for your health. Here are some unlikely ‘junk’ foods and drinks that contribute to a well-balanced lifestyle, so put down that bag of carrots and snack away!
During your next movie night, skip the heavily-processed popcorn like the kind you’d find at the theater. Instead, introduce yourself to your favorite snack—without the calories and health concerns, of course. Air-popped popcorn with light seasoning can actually be a low-calorie, whole grain option and a healthy carb to add into your diet. Sprinkle some brown sugar or other spices over top for an extra pop of flavor.
2. Red Wine
The alcohol in wine paired with natural antioxidants found in grapes make a glass of red before bed part of a healthy routine (yes, you read that right). Studies show that consumption of red wine can protect the heart and help control cholesterol levels. Red wine can even make you live longer by inducing longevity genes. So ditch the guilt, pour yourself a glass and sleep soundly!
3. Dark Chocolate
Don’t grab just any old chocolate bar; however, those with 70% or more cacao are actually healthy for you and can help reduce levels of stress-causing cortisol. Cacoa, the healthy ingredient of dark chocolate, can also lower blood pressure, improve your circulation and reduce your risk of developing diabetes and coronary heart disease. It might take some time to acquire a taste for this bitter, dark chocolate, but eventually you’ll love it just the same as its milky evil twin.
One of your daily indulgences is likely your morning (or hourly) cup of coffee, but there’s no need to feel guilty about that cup of joe. Studies show that coffee can actually be beneficial to your health, lowering your risk of diabetes and improving your metabolism as well as preventing cavities, headaches and mood swings. What to stay away from? Added sugar, sweeteners and creams. Stick to a mantra of the blacker the coffee, the healthier. Even consider ditching the drip and starting on espresso.
5. Peanut Butter
Though it has a bad rap because it’s high in calories and fat content, peanut butter is actually a healthy spoonful of essential nutrients. Full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, this nut butter is exactly the kind of fat you want to include in your diet. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidant vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and immunity-boosting vitamin B6. One study even found that consuming 1 ounce of peanut butter (about 2 tablespoons) five days a week can lower your risk of developing diabetes by almost 30%.
These five treats go to show that you don’t have to radically alter your diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Pick up some snacks the next time you’re at the grocery store with a clear-conscience, knowing you are actually helping your body and overall health.