Junk Food That's Good for You

The prevalence of obesity in the US has more than doubled over the last 30 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Today 72 million Americans (more than one-third of US adults) are obese, and two-thirds of Americans are reported to be overweight.

Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, kidney stones and other health conditions. According to the U.S. Surgeon General report, obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths every year. While eating junk food might be quick, easy and pleasurable in the moment, it can be dangerous for your future.

But what do you do when you feel like indulging? Is there such a thing as junk food that is good for you? In fact, there is.

Dark Chocolate. Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals--destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, relieve pain, protect from skin cancer, and even reduce stress. Additionally, other studies have shown that eating dark chocolate can stimulate the production of endorphins (the "feel-good" hormones) and the release of serotonin (a natural antidepressant), which have both been linked with reducing stress levels.

Natural Beef Jerky. Beef jerky is high in protein, and an ideal between-meals snack. While some beef-jerky brands are packed with high-sodium ingredients, such as MSG and sodium nitrate, there are chemical-free beef jerky products available. Choose beef jerky with all-natural ingredients--no preservatives and made from lean, grass-fed beef. Research shows that, unlike grain-fed products, grass-fed beef contains the same healthy omega-3 fats found in fish.

Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir contains more disease-fighting antioxidants than any other type of alcoholic beverage. The antioxidants in pinot noir have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. For non-drinkers, grape juice or even red grapes can be as effective.

Popcorn. This popular junk food conjures up the image of a gigantic bucket of movie theater popcorn soaked in artificial butter and swimming in trans fat. It's true that popcorn served in this way is not good for you. But popcorn served au natural--without the added butter and overlay of salt--is good for you. A little known fact about popcorn is that it is actually a whole grain food and a source of fiber. Another good for you tip--popcorn carbs will induce your body to create serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed. Just make sure not to overdo it.

Note: The foods that are best for you are the ones that are in a state closest to their natural source. In other words, not processed. If you reach for the junk food, remember to eat small portions. Junk food can be a part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation.


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