Most of us can tell the difference between foods that are good for us and those that are bad for us. Generally, the more processed they are and the more sugar and unnatural ingredients they contain, the worse they are for us – whereas the more natural, unprocessed and nutrient-filled, the better.
There are some foods you may be avoiding however, that actually have health benefits – within moderation of course. Here are eight foods that are surprisingly good for your health, according to Principal Officer at Fedhealth, Jeremy Yatt:
Yes, you may associate it with movies and kids’ parties, but popcorn is actually an unprocessed whole grain that contains lots of fibre as well as vitamin B, manganese and magnesium. As a bonus, it also contains antioxidants which can help boost your immune system. The part that makes popcorn unhealthy is the seed oils, such as sunflower oil, that they’re usually cooked in. For a healthier option, try using alternatives such as coconut oil, peanut oil or ghee.
Not all sweet things are bad for you – and honey is one of them. Although it does contain sugar, it also contains vitamins, minerals, iron, zinc and antioxidants. Together, these make it a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial agent. There’s also emerging evidence that its antioxidants can help lower the risk of heart disease and relieve problems within the gastrointestinal tract. Honey is also traditionally used as a cough suppressant, and as a topical agent to promote the healing of burns and other wounds.
Not all chocolate is created equal. Dark chocolate, for example, has far less sugar than milk chocolate, and it also has the most cocoa content, which contains flavonoids that can lower blood pressure, improve circulation and make you less susceptible to heart disease. The key here is to go for chocolate with a cocoa level of 70% or more, since that’s where the beneficial antioxidants are found.
There’s a popular belief that fats are bad for you – but the truth is that some are better than others. Avocados contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are known as “good fats” that can help to lower levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol. Avocados are also filled with many nutrients such as fibre, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins – plus they taste delicious in salads, sandwiches and with any meal really!
Just like with fats, there’s a belief that carbohydrate-filled foods are bad for you – but that’s not always the case. Potatoes actually contain “good” carbohydrates, which means that they are don’t raise blood glucose quickly – unlike carbs like white bread, biscuits and sugary drinks. Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C as well as potassium, which helps keep our heart muscles and nervous system healthy. The skin of potatoes also contains fibre that is key to digestive health. Darker skinned potatoes – such as sweet potatoes – contain even more nutrients and antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin A.
Plant-based and nut milks like almond and oat milk are hugely popular these days, but whole milk contains large amounts of vitamin A and D. The key here is to eat whole (full fat) milk though – skim milk and low-fat milk contain synthetic versions of these vitamins that aren’t as easily absorbed by our bodies.
Years ago, the accepted thinking was that eggs were high in fat and cholesterol which could be damaging to our hearts. But newer nutritional research has found that cholesterol in food is not directly associated with cholesterol in your blood. Eggs also contain protein, vitamins and minerals that are essential to a balanced diet – plus they’re so easy to whip up into a tasty nutritious meal, at any time of day.
As with most of the foods on this list, some breads can actually be healthy, depending on how they’re made and the ingredients they contain. A whole grain sourdough, for example, is packed with iron and fibre, whereas a processed loaf of white bread can spike your blood sugar and doesn’t have much nutritional value. In general, eating bread with whole grains is much better for your overall health. Not sure how healthy you are right now? If you belong to a medical aid such as Fedhealth, it’s worth taking advantage of their screening benefit so you can check out your heart health and get special women’s and men’s health checks done, as part of your medical aid benefits.
You may think that the only way to be healthy is to eat less and take supplements – but that’s the wrong way of looking at things. Knowing your health status, and then loading up your pantry and plate with the right kinds of whole, unprocessed foods in moderation is the way to go if you want to boost your health (as well as satisfy those tastebuds).