“I would never devour six bowls of spinach,” my friend said recently, “so why can I polish off half a jar of almond butter in one sitting?”
Foods usually fall into one of two categories: healthy or unhealthy. Leafy and cruciferous vegetables are healthy. And you know which foods aren't so good for you.
What becomes murkier are those foods and drinks that can be healthy in small amounts but incrementally unhealthy when you reach for more. While small amounts of these dose-dependent foods can become not-so-guilty pleasures, overdo them and they take a decidedly unhealthy turn.
You might have your own dose-dependent contenders. These are my favorite five:
1. Dark chocolate
Do we need another reason to indulge? One study found that for healthy people, small amounts of the dark stuff could reduce blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity. Ideally, you’ll opt for low-sugar impact, preferably raw, organic dark chocolate. Remember most bars provide several servings, so portion out one and step away from the dark chocolate.
2. Red wine
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 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.
I’m convinced this beloved morning beverage should become its own food group. 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.
4. Nuts and nut butter
Full confession: Almond butter is my kryptonite, a handful of slow-roasted nuts before a running-late dinner party saves me from hungrily nose diving into high-sugar impact appetizers and cashew cheese tastes better than the real thing. Nuts and nut butters are my besties, but I also know how overeating them can become all too easy. Portion control or you'll likely discover you’re mindlessly munching or spooning on the couch watching TV.
Step away from the margarine and listen up: Butter is back and its creamy, rich texture tastes way better than the fake stuff.
Butter contains fat-burning conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) and fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D. Bonus points for putting a pat or two onto your green veggies, which helps better absorb their fat-soluble nutrients. But go butter-crazy and you've added a caloric wallop to your otherwise-healthy plate. Dairy-intolerant folks, opt for ghee, which is butter without milk solids.