Everyone knows that certain foods are healthy—leafy greens are full of vitamins, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains have heart benefits. But trying to eat healthy doesn’t just mean sticking to the usual suspects. Here’s a look at six foods you may think are “bad” but have surprising health benefits.
Many people think they should cut back on their coffee habit or quit completely, but that overlooks the many benefits of drinking coffee or espresso. Studies have found that coffee may lower your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes and that regular coffee drinkers are at lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s than those who don’t drink coffee. Additionally, drinking coffee may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, including skin cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer by about 40%. Drinking just one cup of regular coffee or espresso-based drink a day is enough to have a benefit, so set up your espresso maker and get brewing.
Thanks to their starch content, potatoes are often seen as off-limits for those trying to maintain a healthy diet. But the truth is that potatoes are packed with a number of vitamins that are essential for good health, including potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. The iron and zinc potatoes contain play a role in the production of collagen, and the calcium and magnesium they offer helps build strong bones. Potatoes can be paricularly beneficial to people dealing with inflammation thanks to the flavonoids in potato skins.
People often eliminate red meat from their diets for heart health. And while it’s never healthy to overdo one particular food, lean beef has gotten a bad reputation. Lean cuts like the tenderloin can be quite healthy because they contain iron and vitamin B12—which are important in preventing anemia and boosting energy—without the saturated fat other cuts contain. Lean beef is also a great source of antioxidants that protect cells and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. If you stick to 90% cuts, lean beef can be part of a healthy eating plan up to twice per week.
No one will argue that avocados are delicious, but conventional wisdom says they should be limited because they’re high in fat. Luckily, however, the fat in avocado is the heart-healthy kind of fat, which can lower cholesterol by clearing the blood of the “bad” kind of fat. In addition, avocados contain 20 different vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Surprisingly, avocados also have more potassium than bananas. So next time you feel a charley horse coming on, make yourself some guacamole.
Peanut butter is the perfect food to fill you up while delivering a number of unexpected health benefits. Because it contains both fiber and protein, this miracle spread can help you eat less overall while also being delicious. Peanut butter also offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and potassium, which can decrease the risk of complications from high blood pressure.
It is safe to say that few people think of cheese as a health food. While we don’t encourage eating a whole block in one sitting, cheese can have great health benefits when eaten in moderation. The biggest benefit of cheese is its high calcium content, which is essential for bone health. Along with the calcium, the magnesium and potassium in cheese have been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular health.