This is the kind of health and wellness article that I especially enjoy writing. The reason why is because, every time a big food trend comes out and/or folks watch some documentary and then vow to never eat a certain food again, I'm usually over here like, "Calm down. No need to be so extreme about everything. Moderation has always been the key".
And so today, we're gonna tackle eight foods that usually are the object of "don't do that" trends and docs. Should you consume them all of the time? As you're about to see in my breakdowns, absolutely not. At the same time, do they have absolutely no redeeming qualities at all? Yeah, that's not the truth either.
So, let's get into some foods that may be considered to be unhealthy, yet can actually benefit you, so long as you know what approach to take to them. Ready?
8 Unhealthy Foods With Surprising Health Benefits
In order to break all of this down, as thoroughly as possible, it only makes sense to first explain why certain foods are considered to be unhealthy and then follow that up with the actual benefits that come with them. Let's start with beer. It's basically a fermented drink that is made from water, grain, hops and yeast (so if you've got an allergy to any of these things, it would automatically be a no-no for you). Since everything but the water in beer is a carb and carbs turn into sugar in our system, you can probably already guess that beer is a beverage that can help you to pack on the pounds (which is basically where "beer bellies" come from), if you're not careful. Also, consuming too much alcohol can lead to health issues like cirrhosis, hypertension and even breast and colon cancer.
Still, in moderation, beer can actually be a beneficial thing. The hops in it can help to reduce body inflammation; there are extracts in beer that can help to decrease tooth decay; there are also studies citing that moderate alcohol consumption (which includes beer) can reduce the risk for heart disease by as much as 42 percent, and since beer also contains the chemical element silicon, it can be great for increasing bone density and boosting your brain power too.
I know some people who act like bread is the devil. Here's why. Bread, especially white bread, tends to be high in carbs, low in micronutrients and made from sugar and gluten (which we'll get into a bit later). Plus, a lot of breads are made with refined flour which is the kind that has the bran pulled out of it. When you eat this type of bread, it can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
However, there are breads that are made from sprouted grains which is a good thing. That's because sprouted grains are a good source of protein, fiber, folate and Vitamin C. As a bonus, they're also much easier for your body to digest. If sprouted bread (like Ezekiel Bread) is a bit too "much" for you (it does tend to be a little on the hard side), sourdough contains prebiotics and is low on the sugar level side; 100 percent whole wheat bread leaves all of the grain intact and, flax bread has whole-grain flours and flax seeds which makes it one of the healthiest breads you can eat. Or, if you want to take a stab at making some of your own bread, click here for a recipe for soft whole wheat bread.
3. Hot Wings
I'm pretty much the kind of person who is gonna tear some chicken wings up regardless. But if you were ever wondering why some folks frown on this particular food, it's because, not only are (most) wings pretty much only comprised of skin and fat, the really good-tasting ones are usually fried. In fact, I once read somewhere that one wing can be anywhere between 165 and 200 calories. Then, if you add the ranch or blue cheese dressing into the mix, you're getting about 700 calories more (for five tablespoons).
So, what could possibly be the good side of 'em? It's actually the chicken itself. Chicken contains Vitamin B12 and choline which can help your nervous system to function properly. Chicken also has the amino acid tryptophan in it that makes it easier for your serotonin levels to stay in balance so that you can remain in a calm and relaxed mood. Chicken is also an awesome source of protein and we all need that for healthy hair and nails, to build muscle mass and to keep building up our cells, bones and what comprises of our skin. Bottom line, if you want to keep a lot of the calories at bay, baking your wings instead of frying them is gonna be your best bet.
If cereal is your favorite breakfast food, I get why you might want to skip over this particular point yet try and bear with me, OK? The main reason why breakfast cereal is so problematic is a lot of brands are loaded with sugar, preservatives and refined carbs (which are basically carbohydrates that have been stripped of all their nutrients). One way to know if yours falls into this category is to check out the label. If you see that sugar is the second or third ingredient, it's got way more than what you need. Plus, a lot of breakfast cereals are also highly processed which is never a good thing.
So, what possibly could be good about breakfast cereal? Well, if you look for the kind that are high in fiber and low in sugar, you can still enjoy the convenience of eating cereal without compromising your health in the process. If you're curious to know what some of those brands are, Good Housekeeping did an article featuring 30 of 'em. You can check that out here.
Before getting into this one, it's important to put on record that eating a piece of fruit is so much better for you than drinking fruit juice. The main reason why is because when fruit is in its purest form, it's got the skin as well as the pulp which gives you unprocessed nutrients and fiber. That said, drinking juice can sometimes be an issue because it is a source of sugar and, based on how it's made, the sugar amount can be a lot. Just think about it—if you read the back of a label of your favorite juice brand, oftentimes the caloric intake is as much as 120-170 calories per serving. This means that you could easily consume all of the calories you need a day (which is roughly somewhere between 1600-2400 for us) by drinking a few glasses of juice alone! That's why moderation is key. Also, you should avoid juice cocktail (that is definitely full of sugar) or pasteurized juices; those typically have compromised nutritional content in them. I've also read that juice that has the label "not from concentrate" isn't a good look because those are oftentimes stored in tanks that don't contain much oxygen; as a direct result, the flavor and quality isn't all that great.
Still, if you're intentional about purchasing 100 percent juice, a cup of it will roughly equate to one serving of fresh fruit. And since fruit contains antioxidants, fiber, potassium and folate (for starters), it's not a bad thing to drink juice. It's all about selecting the right quality and not drinking it like it's water. 2-3 glasses a day is more than plenty.
6. Red Meat
Something else that some people loathe is red meat. I absolutely am not one of them. Anyway, the reason why it tends to be a very controversial topic is because of how some cows are treated (that's a fair point) and also because a lot of meat is processed improperly which leads to consuming hormones and preservatives. Plus, the fat that oftentimes comes with red meat can increase your chances of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (mostly colorectal cancer although it's actually a pretty low chance).
Why doesn't any of this absolutely terrify me? It's because I also know that red meat is high in protein, B-vitamins, iron, zinc and selenium. As with just about everything on this list, the key is not to eat it all day, every day. Consuming a leaner cut, eating it no more than three times a week and baking, steaming or stewing it as much as possible helps you to get more benefits from red meat while lowering your chances of experiencing any health risks in the process.
Do you enjoy a nice cocktail at the end of the day? Aside from what I shared about alcohol in the beer section, the main things to keep in mind is alcoholic drinks tend to be high in calories and drinking too much can sho 'nuf turn you into an alcoholic. But if you're someone who only has one a day (or even better, 3-4 of 'em a week), for the most part, you should be fine (check out "Liquors That Are Gluten-Free (& Beneficial In Other Ways)"). Alcohol can boost your libido, make you less susceptible to colds and can even lower your risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease up the pike too. I've even read that 1-2 a day can lower the risk of death by as much as 18 percent. Sounds like a good reason to have margarita or mojito to me.
I'm pretty sure that a lot of y'all remember how going gluten-free was all the rage a few years back. If you've ever wondered what exactly gluten is, the best way to probably describe it is, it's a group of seed storage proteins; although, to be fair, it is mostly comprised of wheat protein. The reason why some doctors and nutritionists frown at gluten is because, clearly, if you have a wheat allergy of some sort, consuming it is only going to make your symptoms worse. Not only that but, if you've been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder celiac disease, gluten can actually cause your immune system to attack your small intestine. Also, people with a form of celiac disease known as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) should stay away from gluten because it can attack their skin rather than their small intestine.
But what if you don't have any of these issues? Well, because gluten falls into the carbs category and carbs (good carbs, that is) make up 50-60 percent of our diet, that is one reason to not go totally without it. Also, if you've heard someone say that gluten can cause you to pack on the pounds, that's a myth. In fact, oftentimes it's the gluten-free brands that have more calories (due to more "filler sugar" that's added) than the ones that contain gluten. And finally, while gluten itself isn't something that's loaded with nutrients, because gluten is usually found in foods like whole grains (which are packed with vitamins and minerals), the focus needs to be more on if the food that contains gluten is good for you; gluten being in it is really not that big of a deal.
Welp. I hope that debunked certain myths that you've heard. Listen, 2020 showed all the way out so, if you wanna have a beer and some chicken wings every once in a while—do it. It's not as bad as you might've thought it was. Sis, you're totally welcome.
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