Chocolate, salt, and peanut butter are commonly perceived as foods that are “bad for you.” But the verdict is in, and they’re not guilty. Sure, versions of these foods can be processed to create unhealthy products—cover peanut butter in chocolate and you get a peanut butter cup that certainly isn’t low in sugar or fat. However, contrary to the way these scapegoats are portrayed, they’re not the bad guys. In fact, if you choose these foods in unprocessed, high-quality forms, you’ll actually benefit from their positive nutritional components. Here are the key facts you need to know about these “bad” foods that are actually good for you.
Now, there is nothing healthy about chowing down on a pack of M&M’s. But, in its purest form, chocolate comes from the Earth, and there’s a sense in which it can be a healthy, truly natural food. Chocolate is a product of the antioxidant-rich cacao bean. In today’s world of cheap, mass-produced foods, a portion of good food like cacao beans can quickly get processed into a bad one. Cacao beans are ground and roasted to produce cocoa, and then butter, sugar, and artificial additives are thrown in to make chocolate. Pure cocoa has been credited with a wealth of health benefits.
- Cacao’s antioxidants fight free radicals and reduce inflammation, which is often that cause of arthritis.
- Cocoa is high in flavonoids. A research team at Harvard found that flavonoids, especially catechin, procyanidins and epicatechin, help lower cholesterol and reduce blood clots.
- Flavonoids also reduce blood pressure; coupled with lower cholesterol, the risk of heart disease or stroke decreases. It turns out this consolatory favorite is good for both a broken heart and a healthy heart.
- Another study suggests that cocoa’s flavanol content can help fight memory loss.
Salt gets a bad rap. With obesity and heart disease on the rise in America, too much sodium has been blamed for its harmful effects (such as raised blood pressure, water retention, and kidney problems). But a certain type of salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, is here to redeem the bad name it’s been given! Pink Himalayan Salt is a beautiful crystal—the shades of red, white and pink indicate this special salt’s rich mineral content. It’s widely considered the purest form of salt, has less sodium than table salt and contains vital minerals. Pink Himalayan Salt can also help to balance your body’s pH, preventing muscle cramps, and improving circulation. It’s a perfect ingredient when you’re making foods that are traditionally on the saltier side, as it means you don’t need to add all the unhealthy extra sodium. Use it in soups and homemade salad dressings, or when curing and preparing meat dishes.
You don’t have to skimp on peanut butter if you choose healthy versions and enjoy it in moderation. Eating a jar of peanut butter in one sitting is definitely not going to shrink your waistline, but that doesn’t mean this creamy (or crunchy!) treat doesn’t have its redeeming health benefits. In fact, peanut butter is full of great nutritional qualities, like fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fat (healthy fat, in layman’s terms). Healthy versions of peanut butter—which don’t have added sugar and artificial preservatives—also have the vitamins and minerals that pure peanuts pack, including vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, niacin, folate, choline, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. While fancier cousins of the nut butter family—almond, pecan, and cashew kinds of butter—are frequently promoted as healthier than peanut butter, this isn’t necessarily true. If any of these other spreads are made with additional salt, sugar, and preservatives, they too become less healthy options:
- Buy peanut butter that is made through a cold-press process, as this preserves its nutritional value.
- Compare ingredient labels. Look at two different brands and read through the list of what’s been added, then go with the jar that has the shorter list.
- Always look at the sugar content. A jar of peanut butter should have no more than 3g of sugar.