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8 "Unhealthy" Foods That Have Impressive Health Benefits

Who said you can't thoroughly enjoy a steak and a drink every once in a while?

Food & Drink

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

1. Beer

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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.

2. Bread

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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

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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.

4. Cereal

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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.

5. Juice

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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

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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.

7. Cocktails

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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.

8. Gluten

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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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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