Over the years, many foods have gone in and out of controversy. Unfortunately, a few that have been picked on are actually nutritious and beneficial to your overall health when consumed in moderation. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find out that you can enjoy the ones listed below guilt free, as long as you don’t over indulge. After all, any excuse to nibble on dark chocolate and enjoy a glass of red wine is good news to most. Cheers to this list of eight awesomely healthy foods!
Grass-fed Butter: Congratulations! Just from hearing that, you probably feel liberated. Grass-fed butter contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an important element that grain-fed or faux-butters lack. CLA has been shown to minimize stubborn belly fat, inhibit the development of tumors and lower the risk of a heart attack. Next time you're at a grocery store, buy a stick of grass-fed butter and a stick of grain-fed butter. Take note of the difference in the color. The aforementioned butter contains higher vitamin content, especially carotene and Vitamin K. Vitamin K helps to improve brain function, assists with a healthy heart, strengthens bones, improves skin, and combats forms of cancer. Grass-fed butter also contains amounts of butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that helps with inflammation, especially in the gut. I'm not sure about you, but throw me a stick of grass-fed butter and sign me up for all of those health benefits! Butter should truly be a staple in any diet. However, as you can see, not all butter is created equal. If you're dairy intolerant, don't fret - ghee is a great substitute. It doesn't contain the dairy proteins but has the same creamy, delicious taste.
Bacon: That's right! Devilish frenemy to a must have sensation. Bacon seemed to increase in popularity with the introduction of the Paleo diet. While people still believe eating fat will make them fat, the truth is that the metabolism of macronutrients doesn’t work like that. Naturally occurring saturated fat is not the culprit here. In fact, 50 percent of the fat in bacon is actually monounsaturated fat; the same fat that makes up olive oil. To make sure you're getting the healthiest option, look for antibiotic and hormone free bacon. Also, look for the smallest list of ingredients which will suggest less, if any, additives. On that note, don't bother with the 'microwavable' bacon and remember that organic and pastured is a safer bet than conventionally raised. Check out eatwild.com or localharvest.org for awesome bacon options near you.
Eggs: Six words for you: High protein, high fat, low carb. AKA, superfood! Eggs contain choline, a vitamin associated with fat storage in cell membranes, which is essential for brain function. The bummer is that 90 percent of Americans are choline deficient and the media has been trying to scare people away from nutrient dense eggs for years. Aside from containing the super vitamin choline, eggs also provide selenium and believe it or not, Vitamin D. I know what you're thinking, “But eggs raise cholesterol!” False. Walk to your fridge right now and toss that offensive carton of egg whites and EAT YOUR YOLKS! Hormones actually require cholesterol to be created, so by eating eggs, you're giving your body something it greatly needs. Next time you have a meltdown over getting some of that yummy yolk yellowness in your egg whites, get over it! You're actually doing yourself a huge favor.
Red Wine: Want to know the secret to not aging? One hint: it's red, lush, sweet and delicious! Red wine contains a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol which aids in heart health, brain function and anti-inflammation. Now, this is not a free pass for all you wine fiends out there to go and chug a bottle of red wine with each meal, drunkenly yelling, “It's for the sake of my health!” Perhaps a better way to go about it would be to enjoy a glass or two of red wine with your dinner and if anyone judges you, you can just smile and quietly think how much younger you'll look than they will at the age of 60. Always enjoy in moderation and stick to reds, as white wine doesn't offer the same benefits. Salud to heart healthy red wine!
Dark Chocolate: You either love it, or you think it's a cruel excuse for a dessert from nature. What tastes like a little slice of heaven to one, may taste like rotting dirt to another. Sorry to break it to you dark chocolate haters, but studies have shown that it helps decrease blood pressure and increase blood flow. Not to mention, it contains high levels of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. To top it off, this sweet (and slightly bitter) treat has been reported to protect against cardiovascular disease. Try opting for the darkest, purest chocolate you can find. Eating dark chocolate at night can also boost serotonin levels and help you sleep more soundly. Shoot for 75 percent or darker and make sure there is no soy lecithin. While warding off a sweet tooth with a little dark chocolate is much better than most alternatives, keep in mind that eating this in moderation is in your best interest. Besides, it's a good exercise in self control. ;)
Lard: I recall watching “The Brady Bunch” as a little girl and thinking Alice was crazy for using lard to make her meatloaf. While it sounded gross at the time, Alice was actually spot on in using lard as her choice of cooking fat. In fact, lard is probably the reason Marsha's hair always sparkled and shined. Lard is made up of approximately 50 percent of monounsaturated fats, which is (once again) the same type of fat we find in olive oil. It also contains high levels of Vitamin D, which is hard to get from most foods, and especially difficult to get if you live in a less sunny climate. Having adequate Vitamin D in your diet helps with the regulation and production of hormones. In fact, lard proves to be healthier for us than seed oils which tend to be refined, highly processed and high in polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats tend to be more prone to damage from things like air, heat and light, making cooking with these types of fats less than ideal. Lard on the other hand is made up of more saturated fats that are more desirable in high temperatures and cooking. Lard also contains oleic acid, which is known to decrease the risk of depression and contains benefits for helping to prevent cancer.
Coconut Products: The thought, smell and taste of coconut can take you on a journey to a tropical island. You close your eyes and you can smell the salty sea air, feel the warm sun washing over your skin and hear the ocean waves crashing to the shore. Then you open your eyes and remember that you're standing in your kitchen, in sweats and slippers... buzz kill! But seriously, people have used coconut products in different health related ways for years. Somewhere along the line though, people decided that because coconut products are laden in saturated fats (eh hem, naturally occurring saturated fats), that they are disastrous to health. Luckily though people are starting to realize that coconut products actually carry a host of benefits and can be used in a variety of ways. Some of these benefits include improving digestion, the appearance of skin, promoting cell growth and repair, regulating hormones, aiding in weight loss, improving memory and so much more. Plus, coconut water is like the healthy kid's Gatorade with lots of electrolytes.
Avocados: It makes me sad when people think that eating avocados is going to make them fat. It makes me really sad, actually. Especially as they down a bag of chips alongside their guacamole. While avocados are a high fat food, the fat they possess actually aids in anti-inflammation. In this day and age, any food that helps with anti-inflammation is going to be considered a superfood. Avocados also contain soluble fiber, which basically feeds the gut good bacteria, which is awesome for your digestive system. The fiber in avocados can also assist with weight loss and keep your blood sugar from spiking. Another bonus? Avocados lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Aside from that, they taste amazing and can be incorporated into literally any meal.
Make a point to add these fun foods back into your diet, if you haven’t already, and take note of how they make you feel. I have a sneaking suspicion that over time you will start to feel them improving your overall health and energy. Bon appétit, friends!