Why does it seem all the foods that are good for you don’t taste very good? Broccoli, kale, spinach, celery, lima beans, they’re all loaded with healthy nutrients … and most are an acquired taste. But what if there were foods that tasted great and were good for your health? You’ve probably heard about some of the health benefits of the following foods, but recent research suggests they’re even better for you than previously thought. With all of these, moderation is important, but you could probably benefit by adding some or all of these foods to your diet.
5. Chocolate Milk
Kids have long loved this chocolate treat far more than white milk, and some health professionals have cited a correlation between chocolate milk consumption and childhood obesity. (In a sad commentary on the state of American education, one of the most contentious debates in several school districts in recent years is whether or not chocolate milk should be banned from school lunch menus.) Chocolate milk is higher in sugar and calories than “regular” milk. Yet several studies suggest chocolate milk is good for you in moderation, and it is especially beneficial after a vigorous workout. Compared to many sports drinks, water, and plain milk, chocolate milk offers far more protein and carbohydrates, which is good for muscle recovery. It also offers sugar, calcium and sodium, which are helpful in water retention and regaining energy. One oft-cited study published in 2006 studied nine endurance cyclists who drank chocolate milk between strenuous workouts on three separate days. The study found the milk-drinking cyclists were able to perform “significantly greater” work before becoming exhausted, compared to cyclists given carb-replacement drinks. Several other studies in recent years have affirmed that chocolate milk can help athletes recover faster from physical activity. Again, moderation is important. If you don’t get much exercise, maybe chocolate milk isn’t for you. But if you’re an active athlete, with hard workouts most days of the week, it could help.
Health-care professionals have promoted the health benefits of antioxidant-rich foods for years, and recent medical studies hint at even more benefits of adding antioxidants to your diet. In 2013, The Journal of Nutrition published the results of a 12-year study finding that older adults who ate more polyphenols — a powerful antioxidant — had a 30 percent lower mortality rate. Many types of nuts, including pecans, hazelnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of polyphenols. Many other studies have linked nuts to improved cardiovascular health and a lower risk of inflammation. But nuts have gotten a bad reputation in some health circles because of their high calorie and fat content. Good news: A comprehensive study published in 2013 found no link between eating nuts and weight gain, although medical professionals still recommend limiting intake because, yes, nuts are high in fat and calories.
The benefits of cinnamon are not quite as well documented as some of the other items on this list, but health-care professionals generally agree that adding cinnamon to your diet offers several benefits. First, it has been shown to lower blood pressure, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. It is particularly helpful for type-2 diabetics, or for those with prediabetes, in controlling blood sugar and increasing the effectiveness of the body’s own insulin. Like several other spices, cinnamon is also naturally thermogenic, meaning that it increases body temperature and metabolism; a faster metabolism equals more calories burned. A half a teaspoon to a teaspoon a day is the recommended dose, sprinkled in oatmeal, on toast, in tea, etc. Don’t overdo it, as too much cinnamon can have a harmful effect on some people. Consult with a doctor before taking any type of nutritional supplements, especially if you have a preexisting condition.
2. Hot Peppers
Many people love to add a little spice to their food to make it tastier, but hot peppers have some surprising health benefits. As recounted in an earlier Listosaur story, the active ingredient that gives peppers their pop, capsaicin, is good for cardiovascular health. Studies suggest it can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and possibly prevent arteriosclerosis. Capsaicin also can boost metabolism, which helps burn fat. And while cancer studies involving capsaicin are still in the early stages, some research has found capsaicin can kill cancer cells in the lab.
The health benefits of yogurt are hardly a secret now, as yogurt makers have run extensive marketing campaigns touting the wonders of this tasty treat. For starters, yogurt offers the basic essentials found in milk (protein, calcium, B and D vitamins, etc.) But in recent years, researchers have discovered the wondrous benefits yogurt offers in providing “good” bacteria for the body. Yogurts are made using this good bacteria, which aids digestion and could be helpful in treating everything from inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea to constipation. The problem now is that the market has been flooded with yogurt products in recent years, and some of them are actually unhealthy, loaded with sugar and calories, in the form of desert toppings (candy, crumbled cookies, etc.) Also, not all of these offer good bacteria, as some manufacturers heat treat their products — killing all bacteria — to extend shelf life. For best results, stick to the low-calorie yogurts labeled as probiotic, or with “live & active cultures.”
The author has written many articles for health and fitness-related websites.