9 Guilty Pleasures That Are Actually Good for You

Just because you’re eating healthy, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything you love.

You can indulge in some treats to satisfy your cravings without sabotaging your diet. If consumed in moderation, these tasty foods and drinks can please your palate and provide some great health benefits at the same time.

Just make sure to reread the first part of that last sentence because while red wine and beer are on this list, downing a bottle of wine or throwing back five beers every night will do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you pay close attention to serving sizes and use portion control, you can feel safe to occasionally indulge in these pleasures without feeling guilty.

 

Red Wine

Red wine is full of antioxidants, which can keep your heart healthy and lower the risk of certain diseases. There’s also a key ingredient in red wine called resveratrol that has been shown to prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce cholesterol, and prevent blood clots in rats.

However, not everyone reacts to alcohol the same, so although red wine is a great source of antioxidants, it might not be the best indulgence for everyone. For example, findings from the Copenhagen Heart Study, which examined the alcohol consumption of 6,000 men and 7,000 females for 12 years, revealed that people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease benefitted more from moderate wine consumption than those considered low risk.

Need some help with keeping your wine portions under control? Check out these quick tips.

 

Beer

More of a beer aficionado than a wine connoisseur? You’re in luck. More and more studies have been finding that beer can be just as beneficial to your health.

That’s because the hops in beer contain beneficial antioxidants, and moderate consumption of the fermented beverage may also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. That said, the amount and types of nutrients vary from one brew to the next. Darker beers and ales tend to have more antioxidants, while unfiltered beers usually have more protein and vitamins. But be wary of the calories in beer, because they can quickly add up.

 

Dark Chocolate

Attention chocolate lovers: You don’t have to give up your favorite treat if you’re on a diet! Studies show that dark chocolate, which is 72 percent cocoa or higher, has numerous potential health benefits, not the least of which are reducing inflammation and blood pressure. The source of cocoa’s power: Polyphenols, particularly flavonols, which are phytonutrients that act like antioxidants, and which cocoa has in greater abundance than many “super fruits,” including blueberries and acai, according to a study in the Chemistry Central Journal.

Have you ever felt like chocolate can make a bad day better? You’re not just imagining it. Dark chocolate can raise serotonin levels in the brain, which can improve your mood. But don’t think you can swap out a bowl of blueberries for chocolate. Although dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate, just four squares can tally up to 11 grams of sugar. Even though it’s better for you than some other sweet treats, you shouldn’t get too carried away and devour an entire chocolate bar in one sitting.

 

Coffee

For some people, a morning cup of coffee is an absolute must. And while that jolt of caffeine has some obvious benefits (i.e. it helps you wake up and actually stay awake), a cup o’ Joe doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a health elixir. But, it’s rich in antioxidants. In fact, many people get a huge portion of their antioxidants from coffee.

There have also been studies that examined coffee as a protective component against diseases like Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and liver cancer. The caffeine in coffee can also help enhance an athlete’s performance.

All that being said, this is in reference to plain, black coffee. It’s a whole different story when you start adding four pumps of syrup, six packs of sugar, and whipped cream on top. If you really can’t stand the taste of black coffee, try swapping your usual “splash” of half-and-half for non-fat milk, unsweetened almond milk, or coconut oil.

 

Beef Jerky

It’s pretty tempting to gravitate toward the beef jerky at the gas station when you’re making a road trip pit stop. Jerky is salty, chewy, and savory. It’s the total package! And while it’s not necessarily bad for you, there are some types that are better for you than others.

As with many foods, natural is better. Natural beef jerky can be a protein-packed snack that’s relatively low in calories. Some brands can give you between eight to 12 grams of protein per one-ounce serving in less than 100 calories. Even better is jerky that’s made from grass-fed beef, which contains omega-3s — the same healthy fats that are in avocados and fish. Go natural, avoid preservatives, and make sure to read the label.

 

Pasta

Diet programs are often riddled with warnings against eating too many carbs, but you actually do need them, especially if you’re very active. Skip the white pastas and opt for whole-wheat, which is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber helps keep you feel full for longer. It also helps control blood sugar, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of colon cancer, and promote good digestion. As long as you avoid smothering your pasta in butter and salt, whole-wheat pasta can be a good substitute for white pasta when you’re craving comfort food.

 

Peanut Butter

PB&J sandwiches are a favorite for elementary school lunches, but they don’t have to be just for kids. Peanut butter is a perfectly healthy option for a snack or as part of a meal. A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains seven to eight grams of protein and two grams of fiber. Both of those work together to help fill you up and feel more satisfied after you eat. Peanut butter also provides a good amount of vitamins and healthy monounsaturated fat.

So if you’re tired of the avocado toast trend, don’t feel guilty about going back to the basics and slathering some peanut butter onto your toast instead. Do pay attention to the type of peanut butter you buy, because some brands can run high in the sodium and sugar departments. If you want to play it safe, organic and natural brands are best.

 

Popcorn

Popcorn is the ultimate movie snack. Unfortunately, standard “movie popcorn” is mostly just processed chemicals doused in butter. But if you make popcorn from scratch by popping organic kernels and adding your own spices, you can still enjoy this crunchy snack without the guilt.

Popcorn is a whole grain and it’s a great source of fiber, which aids and reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. So for your next movie night, avoid the oil and butter and try making some homemade popcorn — you might be surprised at how many tasty flavor combinations you can come up with!

 

Salsa

Good salsa is essentially just a bunch of fruits and veggies thrown together with some seasonings. It’s easy to make your own, and you can customize it to include all of your favorite veggies. Tomatoes and onions are the base of most salsas, and they contain a ton of vitamin C while still being low in calories. Add in some peppers to get an extra boost of veggies. If you’re craving something sweet, a fruity mango salsa is a great alternative. If you want something spicy, jalapenos can do more than just turn up the heat. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy, has been found to relieve indigestion and stomach pain. Try this recipe for roasted tomato salsa to get a jalapeno kick.

 

The next time you’re struggling to stay on top of your diet, turn to this list for some guilt-free inspiration. Just remember: Moderation is key. It’s safe to indulge a little bit every now and then, but be conscious of serving sizes.