It can be hard to sort through all the misinformation about nutrition, food, and what’s healthy. Fortunately, there’s been scientific research conducted lately that examines the composition of the foods that we eat. So before you start cutting back on all your favorite foods, take a look at these “bad” foods that actually have a lot of benefits for your body.

Chocolate

We as humans often turn to food when we’re under stress, even though it may not be a healthy habit. The guilt of eating chocolate with its extra calories can add to the stress. The cacao bean, which is what chocolate is derived from, is full of theobromine and flavonoids, known to help fight disease and increase awareness.  Cacao on its own is bitter and chalky, so many food manufacturers add flavor enhancers like eggs, sugar, and butter. Although they add significant flavor to the chocolate, they take away from the natural benefit of the cacao. To get the full benefit of the cacao, look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao and aim for no more than 7 ounces per week.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter can be a very healthy food, full of vitamins and polyunsaturated fats. The two main ingredients, peanut butter and salt, in moderation can provide much-needed parts of a balanced diet. Peanuts are high in protein and provide a good dose of potassium, which lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. But peanut butter has been labeled as less-than-healthy because of the unnecessary added ingredients. Take a look at the majority of store-bought peanut butter, and you’ll see that sugar is often listed as the first or second ingredient. For a healthier take, go with an all-natural jar, or better yet, try to make your own — it’s simple and delicious.

Coffee

It used to be that every trip to the doctor’s office came back with a recommendation to cut back on coffee consumption and maybe replace it with tea. While tea is beneficial in its own right, there’s no need to cut out coffee completely. The latest studies all agree that coffee can help to reduce the chance of premature death by lowering the chance of cardiovascular disease and systematic inflammation, not to mention increase cognitive function and mood. Coffee also contains lignans, quinides and magnesium, which have been shown to help reduce insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes. Although you don’t have to avoid coffee altogether, be careful in your consumption – too much coffee can cause sleeplessness, hypertension, and irritability.

As with any healthy diet, moderation and consistent exercise is key to a balanced lifestyle. It pays dividends to be informed, by sources you trust, about the food you eat.

Sources:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/is-peanut-butter-healthy

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine-features/is-butter-really-back/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23764688

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/benefits-of-chocolate

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/moderate-coffee-drinking-may-lower