5 guilty pleasures you should never do without

5 guilty pleasures you should never do without

Health freaks and fitness gurus will tell you that in order to be healthy and disease-free, you need to give up everything you enjoy, join an expensive gym, and somehow manage to survive on a diet of vegetables and tofu. Clearly, these miserable people don’t want to suffer alone.

Well I’ve got news for you. Rabbit food and hamster wheels are not the keys to good health. If you truly want to be healthy, be sure to make these five guilty pleasures a regular part of your diet.

Make mine rare

Meat is one of the most maligned foods on the planet. Vegetarians and animal rights activists have done one heck of a job spreading the propaganda against this health food. But none of their lies can change the facts.

Meat is one of the most balanced sources of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that you can find anywhere. It’s packed with monounsaturated fat—the kind of fat that’s good for your cholesterol levels and your overall heart health. It’s also a good source of iron and zinc, two nutrients that many American kids are deficient in (no doubt thanks to vegetarian parents, or parents who feed their kids fast food and have the nerve to call it meat). Meat is high in folic acid, which your cells need in order to function properly.

Just be sure to stick to meat from grass-fed cattle—it’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid. It’s also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and beta-carotene.

You’ve got egg on your face

The incredible, edible egg is another one of nature’s powerhouses that has been demonized by the fat-fearing public. Decades ago, someone decided that the cholesterol in eggs contributed to heart disease. Boy were they wrong.

Yes, eggs are high in fat, but it’s the good kind of fat, the kind that prevents heart attacks, blood clots, and stroke—not the kind that causes it.

So if you’ve been given advice to eat the egg whites and toss the yolks, you can toss that advice down the garbage disposal. A cooked egg white, without the counterbalancing effect of the yolk, is about as good for you as skim milk. The egg (and I mean the whole egg—none of this “egg whites only, please” nonsense)—is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you could possibly eat (not to mention one of the tastiest).

It’s the best source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that are essential for eye health. In fact, studies have shown that just one egg a day can help prevent macular degeneration and lower your risk of developing cataracts. It’s also a good source of choline, which is good for your brain, your nervous system, and your cardiovascular system.

When you’re buying eggs, it’s worth spending the extra money to get organic or free-range eggs. There’s an easy way to tell if you’re getting what you paid for. The color of higher quality yolks will be bright orange, and the yolk itself will be firm and round. Cheap, low-quality eggs have paler yellow yolks that are flat and easily broken. Spend a little extra money for the good stuff. It’ll be worth it.

Raise a glass with me

If there’s anything worth toasting, it’s this: Tipping a glass or two a day can have a positive effect in helping to prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and more.

Take a look at the benefits of just one or two drinks a day…

* It lowers a man’s chance of having a heart attack by 37 percent.

* It reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 34 percent.

* It reduces your risk of having a stroke by 40 to 60 percent.

* It lowers the risk of dementia by 42 percent.

* It helps maintain higher bone density in women.

Of course, as with anything else, don’t go overboard. You can find plenty of health benefits at the bottom of your stein, but all of them go down the drain if you have more than three or four drinks a day.

Just desserts

I could take the time to tell you how good chocolate is for your heart, how it boosts your mood, or even how it helps reduce pain. But none of those benefits are as enjoyable as this one: One of the best ways to supercharge your sex life is to grab a piece of chocolate.

Cocoa causes your body to release beta-phenylethylamine, a sexual stimulant and a mood enhancer. It also contains numerous components that produce positive moods and relieve negative feelings, including phenylalanine, an amino acid that replaces dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with sexual pleasure and euphoria.

The flavonols in dark chocolate help your body process nitric oxide, a naturally occurring chemical created from arginine synthesis in the body. This amino acid relaxes the muscles in the penis and allows blood to flow more easily through the tissue. As an added benefit, it keeps smooth-muscle tissue flexible, which means you’re improving your cardiovascular health, too.

If you think this gives you free rein to eat Snickers bars to your heart’s content, you need to think again. That overly processed, sugar loaded junk food has taken any of the original nutrients present in the chocolate and beaten them to a nutritionless pulp.

Stick with plain, dark chocolate, and you’ll be “feeling good” in no time.

I’ll take mine black

If Big Pharma could put coffee grounds in a pill, they might just have themselves a new wonder drug. After more than 19,000 studies on the health benefits of coffee, the evidence is clear: Your morning cup of joe could be the best thing you put in your body all day long.

Sipping this morning brew can lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer, liver cirrhosis, gallstones, and even cavities—and can also boost your mood and your memory, ease headache pain, and help treat asthma.

Just don’t go for the decaf variety. Part of coffee’s power comes from the high caffeine content. One 8-oz. cup has three times more caffeine than the same amount of tea or cola. It’s the caffeine that reduces the risk of Parkinson’s and helps prevent asthma and headaches. It’s also loaded with antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and tocopherols, and with minerals such as magnesium.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, brew your own coffee, and don’t add a single granule of sugar to it. Those Starbucks concoctions the nation is obsessed with are the furthest things from health foods. Remember, sugar is the enemy and can turn even the healthiest food into a death trap.