Foods are advertised to us in one of two categories: healthy or unhealthy. Leafy vegetables are healthy, and ice cream is not, right? What may become murkier are those foods and drinks that can be healthy in small amounts but incrementally turn unhealthy when you reach for more.
While small amounts of these dose-dependent foods are your not-so-guilty pleasures, overdo them and they take a decidedly unhealthy turn.
Here are some foods that are actually good for you, but only in the right portions:
Do we need another reason to indulge? One study found that for healthy people, small amounts of dark chocolate could reduce blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity.
Ideally, you’ll opt for low-sugar impact, preferably raw, organic dark chocolate. Don’t be surprised when you experience immediate unpleasant symptoms such as indigestion, headache, and heartburn when you eat more than you should.
Remember most bars provide several servings, so portion out one and step away from the dark chocolate.
Red wine drinkers tend to be leaner and healthier because, among other reasons, they opt for pinot noir over peanut butter tortes. Those health benefits partly come from resveratrol.
One study found this anti-inflammatory antioxidant could help express several longevity genes, reduce inflammation and prevent the aging-related decline in cardiovascular function. Sign me up, right? A glass — or two — provides these and other benefits, but overdo the cabernet and your liver and waistline take the hit as you detour into tipsy-ville.
This beloved morning beverage should become its own food group. The fact that it also provides health benefits only makes that organic dark roast more appealing. But reach for refills and you’ll end up a jittery, over-caffeinated mess.
Quality also matters. Buy organic, preferably toxin-free coffee. Ditch sugar for a little stevia or erythritol.
Nuts and nut butters
Full confession: Almond butter is like kryptonite, a handful of slow-roasted nuts before a dinner party saves one from hungrily nose-diving into high-sugar impact appetizers.
Nuts and nut butter can be your besties, but also know how overeating them can become all too easy. Portion control to avoid mindlessly munching or spooning on the couch watching TV. Because no matter how healthy the food, mindless eating while getting lost in television is not always the best option.
Some of these products are actually problematic. Fake meat is made of soy protein isolate, a processed form in which the soy protein is isolated from the plant. So even though we get those grams of protein, we miss out on some of the benefits found in less processed forms of soy like tempeh.
The preservatives and sky-high sodium levels found in many of these products also negate the benefits of including meatless meals in your diet. That said, there are companies working on new products to address some of these issues as consumer awareness and demand for less processed options grow.
For now, though, if you’re doing a vegetarian meal, reach instead for beans, peas, lentils, tempeh, nuts, seeds (especially hemp seeds), nut and seed butter (sunflower seed butter and tahini), or nutritional yeast for protein.
Processed soy is usually used and hidden in many food items in the form of chips, sweets, powders, soy protein isolates, faux-meats, powders, refined oils, etc. It’s the concentrated phytoestrogens it contains that mimic and disrupt our hormones that are especially problematic, especially for women.
Soy is also more often than not a usual suspect of GMOs. But even in its raw state, soy it extremely hard to digest—yes, that means even edamame is also on the list.
If you do consume soy, make sure it’s organic and quality made, using traditional fermentation processes. Think miso, tempeh, and natto, that aid in the digestion of the soy proteins, reduction of their anti-nutrients, and also provide benefits of their own from the fermentation process.
A lot of people think they are giving their bodies tons of nutrition with this snack, when in reality most protein bars are loaded with soy derivatives, sugar, sodium, and preservatives.
A better option for a snack would be raw or roasted nuts, fresh fruit with nut butter, unsweetened dried fruit like dates, or a small unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit.
Know any other foods like these that would fall into this category? Let us know in the comments section!