Nutrition expert Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, reveals 10 surprising foods that may benefit your health in ways you never imagined.
Pork chops, beef tenderloin, chocolate? If you’re worried that these are diet disasters, we’ve got some good news! Some foods that have a reputation for being unhealthy or fattening are actually surprisingly healthy. Here’s our list of 10 foods that may benefit your health in ways you might have never imagined.
If you think mushrooms add flavor, but no real nutrition, here's some intriguing news: Mushrooms are the only vegetable source
of vitamin D, a nutrient many people are short on these days. It's a small amount―just 15 international units―but preliminary
research suggests sunlight may give it a boost. One study found that exposure to five minutes of ultraviolet light may boost
Vitamin D levels in a serving (4 to 5 white button mushrooms) from 4 percent of the Daily Value to as much as 100 percent
(400 IU). In addition, many popular mushroom varieties like white, portabella, and crimini are good sources of B vitamins
like riboflavin and niacin.
View Recipe: Mushroom-Herb Chicken
If you know the right cuts―tenderloin, boneless loin chops, even center-cut bacon―pork rivals lean poultry as a healthy choice
for complete protein. Pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast, and any cuts from the loin (think pork chops
and pork roast) are even leaner than a skinless chicken thigh. Pork steaks or roasts from the leg (a.k.a. fresh ham) are also
great choices. Pork is also an excellent source of B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and B-6 (pyridoxine).
View Recipes: Pan-Fried Pork Chops and Homemade Applesauce
If you love chocolate, you may already know that a little can be great for your health. Small portions of dark chocolate may
help reduce high blood pressure, reduce LDL (the "bad cholesterol"), and reduce the risk of diabetes by boosting insulin sensitivity.
The key here is "dark." Choose dark chocolate with a cacao content of 70 percent or more, and limit your portions to about
1.5 ounces. That ensures you’ll reap the health benefits without adding too many calories.
View Recipe: Dark Chocolate-Dipped Anise Biscotti
Again, knowing the healthiest cuts is key. Ounce for ounce, beef tenderloin has about the same calorie and fat content as
skinless chicken thighs. Rich in protein and vitamin B12, this cut is a good source of selenium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and
B Vitamins. Versatile and flavorful, tenderloin is a smart indulgence that can be paired with myriad sauces and sides for
a healthful meal. Get to know less expensive lean cuts such as top sirloin (great in stir-fries) and flank steak, a great
all-purpose cut that's cheaper than tenderloin and works in many recipes.
View Recipe: Beef Tenderloin with Mustard and Herbs
Once demonized as an artery-clogging food, eggs have been exonerated by new research and now have a place in most diets. Packed
with nutrients, one egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and healthy unsaturated fats for
just 75 calories. While yolks do contain about 213mg of dietary cholesterol (the daily limit is 300mg), eating a whole egg
a few times per week falls within heart-healthy guidelines if cholesterol from other sources―such as meats, poultry and dairy
products―is limited. If you’re watching your cholesterol, you can still turn to egg whites as a healthful source of protein.
View Recipe: Whispery Eggs with Crabmeat and Herbs
Is cutting out coffee the best bet for your health? Not necessarily. Sure, if you drink too much, caffeinated coffee can give
you the jitters or interfere with sleep. But you can also reap significant perks from coffee, both caffeinated and decaf.
Studies show that drinking coffee regularly may reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and even
headaches. Scientists also believe that coffee may play a role in improving memory and decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Multiple studies have shown that coffee drinkers are up to 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. In other
studies, colon cancer was reduced by about 25 percent in individuals who drank at least 2 cups a day. While more research
is needed, most health experts now believe that the health benefits of coffee outweigh the negatives.
View Recipe: Mocha-Spiced Coffee
Spices are an excellent way to enhance the flavor of food, and early research indicates that some spices may offer health
benefits, too. Turmeric and cinnamon are among those studied by for their potential disease-fighting compounds. Preliminary
studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric powder, may carry a broad range of anti-inflammatory and
potential cancer-fighting properties. However, further studies are needed to confirm these findings.
View Recipe: Curried Cabbage
Pistachios offer more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients including lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants
associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration. Worried about the fat and calories? Pistachios are one
of the nuts lowest in calories and fat. (They have only three calories per nut―about half the count of most snack nuts.) Small
and flavorful, pistachios make a satisfying snack as well as a healthful ingredient in many meals.
View Recipe: Fusilli with Pistachio Pesto
If you love the creamy, rich taste of avocados but worry about the fat and calorie content, we can put some of those fears
to rest. While avocados are high in fat, most of it is “heart healthy” mono- and polyunsaturated fat. Concerned about calories?
One-fifth of a medium-sized avocado has about 50 calories. Not bad considering these versatile fruits are nutrient-rich, containing
nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. As long as you use moderation as your guide, avocados are a very nutritious―and tasty―addition
to sandwiches, salads, and dips.
View Recipe: Avocado-Tomatillo Dip with Cumin Pita Chips
We've fingered restaurant baked potatoes as one of the foods that sound healthy (but aren't). But if you prepare them yourself,
potatoes can be a nutritious, versatile, and inexpensive food that has a place in a healthy diet. One medium-sized potato
(with skin) has just 160 calories and is one of the best sources of potassium and fiber in the produce section. Baked, mashed,
or roasted, potatoes make a wonderful side or a base for a healthful meal (just make sure to go light on the toppings).
View Recipe: Smoked Salmon and Cheese Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes