Cocoa

‘Bad’ foods like cheese and chocolate could be good for you

Feeling guilty about already ditching your New Year’s resolution to give up chocolate or cheese?

Fear not. Many foods we assume to be bad for us — including cheddar and candy bars — can actually provide our bodies with significant health benefits.

“We tend to view food as either good or bad for us,” Lisa Young, a registered dietitian at New York University and the author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” told The Post.

However, she said, such thinking isn’t necessarily useful — or, well, healthy.

“Generally, a small portion of [any] food is OK,” she said.

And many of our favorite bites, it turns out, are a great deal more than OK —they’re packed with vital nutrients. Have a look.

White potatoes


Young says there are benefits to including white potatoes in your diet.
Young says there are benefits to including white potatoes in your diet.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“They get a bad rap because of French fries, which is a form of white potato,” Young told The Post. “But white potatoes themselves [aren’t bad].”

“A baked potato has tons of fiber and potassium,” she continued. Plus each one is a single unit, making portion control simple.

Just beware of going overboard on indulgent toppings. Instead of the usual sour cream and chives, substitute protein-packed Greek yogurt and fresh veggies, such as chopped tomatoes or spinach.

Cheese


Maybe say yes to that cheeseboard next time it's sitting in front of you.
Maybe say yes to that cheeseboard next time it’s sitting in front of you.
Getty Images/Image Source

Sure, the beloved pre-dinner snack is high in calories, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever say “cheese.”

It “provides protein [and] calcium, so there is definitely a place in the diet for cheese,” Young said.

Harder cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss and parmesan and blue cheeses are typically healthier than soft cheeses, such as brie, because they contain more calcium.

Plus, aged cheeses have been identified as helping to aid digestion and boost immunity.

“Both raw and pasteurized cheeses contain good bacteria that can be beneficial to human gut microbiota,” Adam Brock, vice president of food safety, quality and regulatory compliance for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, told The Washington Post.

Those who consume cheese and full-fat dairy have also been found to lower their likelihood of developing diabetes or hypertension. A 2020 study — which surveyed more than 145,000 people in 21 countries — found consuming two daily servings of dairy of any kind reduced the risk posed by either condition by 11% to 24%.

Peanut butter


As long as there's no additives, peanut butter has been given the thumbs up by Dr. Young.
As long as there’s no additives, peanut butter has been given the thumbs up by Dr. Young.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you opt for a nutty spread that’s all peanuts — and doesn’t have additives such as salt, sugar or kernel or palm oil — it’s a great snack.

“Natural peanut butter is one of the healthiest foods for you,” Young said. “[Nuts] are high in polyunsaturated fat — so they’re good for you.”

According to the American Heart Association, polyunsaturated fat can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

A scoop of PB is also known to satisfy and suppress your appetite, and is a fairly balanced energy source, containing all three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat and protein, all of which your body needs to remain healthy.

Chocolate


Chocolate containing more than 70% cocoa or above contains antioxidants - so have a nibble, for health.
Chocolate containing more than 70% cocoa or above contains antioxidants — so have a nibble, for health.
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“It’s healthy, to allow yourself to indulge in a small portion of a treat every now and then,” said Young.

She noted that dark chocolate that is 70% cocoa or higher has antioxidants, which help to prevent or slow damage to cells in the body caused by free radicals — waste substances that can harm cells and the body’s functioning.

There’s more sweet news. A study published in the journal BMJ Heart in 2017 found that those who consumed chocolate in small amounts — roughly once a week — were less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Eggs


As long as you don't have high cholesterol, eggs are a healthy addition to your diet.
As long as you don’t have high cholesterol, eggs are a healthy addition to your diet.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Give ’em a break. Eggs are a great source of protein when consumed in moderation — and ideally without a side of bacon or deep-fried hash browns.

Plus, Young said, “Eggs have lutein [which supports eye and brain health], vitamin E, Choline — there’s a lot of nutrients.” Many of the nutrients are in the yolk, so don’t opt for just the whites.

While the yolks are high in cholesterol, the Mayo Clinic notes that consuming eggs doesn’t seem to raise a person’s cholesterol the way foods high in saturated fat do.

A 2019 review from the Université de Tours in France even found that the peptides eggs contain reduce blood pressure.

Butter


While you shouldn't be eating stick of butter, spreading some on some toast is fine.
While you shouldn’t be eating a stick of butter, spreading some on a slice of toast is fine.
Getty Images/EyeEm

There’s little harm in spreading a tablespoon or two of the creamy stuff on your toast every morning, Young said.

It can help build calcium and it’s also a good source of vitamin A — which is important for skin health and immune function — and vitamin E, which is important for vision and reproduction, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“[The health benefits of butter come down to] a quantity issue,” Young said. “In moderate amounts [it can be] be totally healthy.”


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