Banish the idea of “guilty pleasures” from your mind. Yes, some foods are best eaten in moderation, but you can also find health benefits in surprising places. Check out these five foods with unexpected health benefits—you may see them in a whole new light!
That sweet, sticky substance you pour on your pancakes is more than just sugar. It’s also a surprising source of calcium and manganese, a mineral that’s essential to bone health and nerve function. Maple syrup also contains compounds called polyphenols, which support a healthy immune system. One of those compounds has even been named quebecol, after the world’s largest producer of maple syrup.
Carbohydrates have gotten some bad press through the years, as overconsumption can lead to health concerns. But they’re also essential sources of energy! Pasta is rich in complex carbs, which give you long-lasting energy throughout the day. Enriched pasta is also packed with folic acid and B vitamins. To enjoy the health benefits of pasta more effectively, dress it simply with olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.
This luxury meat is famous for its intricate marbling of fat with muscle. If you’ve been trained to believe that fat is bad, you may look at a slice of Wagyu as a heart attack on a plate. In fact, the opposite is true. The fat in Wagyu beef is unsaturated and full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This variety of fat increases the levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) in your system, helping unhealthy cholesterol leave your body. Wagyu beef can actually decrease your risk of heart disease!
Because it’s so easy to make and munch on in front of the TV, popcorn has become associated with “junk” food. But at its core, stripped of the extra butter and salt, it’s still corn. Popcorn is loaded with fiber, which can decrease your risk of heart disease (as long as you’re careful with your toppings). It also has a low glycemic index, which means it can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
This popular and decadent treat is rich in flavanols—compounds that can lower blood pressure and prevent cell damage. The flavanols found in cocoa beans, in particular, may fight heart disease. The next time you wander through the candy aisle at the store, don’t be afraid to grab a bar of dark chocolate. Varieties with 70 to 80 percent cocoa are powerful sources of fiber, iron, and magnesium.
When you find nutrition in surprising parts of your diet, living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t seem so daunting. These are only five foods with unexpected health benefits, but don’t forget: all food has some value. Think of your favorite snacks in a new light!