We all need to indulge once in a while, and few things are better to indulge in than junk food. Junk Food lights up the pleasure centers in our brain and is actually addictive like many illegal drugs or cigarettes. Are there any positive effects of junk food? Turns out, for some of it, there are a couple benefits. Here’s our healthy junk food: 25 Surprising Junk Foods That Are Actually Good For You.
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While one would assume nothing you can grab at the gas station would be a “good” eating option, Beef Jerky is actually pretty darn good for you, as far as snacks go. It’s mostly protein with little to no sugar, so it makes you feel fuller longer, and it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. Just watch the added salt content.
Red Meat has been blamed for almost every health boogeyman one can imagine, from heart attacks to cancer. However, more recent studies have shown that the there is not enough data to support a clear connection between eating red meat and things like cancer, stroke and heart disease. There’s also no consistent evidence showing that eating red meat greatly raises cholesterol levels. Red meat does, however, for sure, contain one of the most easily absorbed forms of Vitamin D, which is is good for bone and breast health. It also contains Zinc, which is far more easily absorbed than the iron in dark green veggies. Grass fed beef has a high content of something called “conjugated linoleic acid,” which can aid in fat loss. So have a steak if that’s what you’re craving because it may be just what your body needs.
Marmite & Vegemite
Marmite and Vegemite may not be a big deal in the US, but in the UK and Australia they’ve got a cult-like following. They’re slightly different versions of a salty sticky goo made from yeast and salt. They’re also jam packed with B vitamins and folate (folate prevents birth defects in fetuses). There’s actually so much iron in these products that in the 1930’s it was found to be useful in the treatment of anemia. Someone might say, “What if I have no food delivery near me?” Simply purchase it online.
Beer is actually good for you! No, that doesn’t mean get a six pack of Natty Ice on the way home every night, but moderate beer consumption may help with things like digestion and even cancer preventing (though studies on cancer have only been done in rats, so far). Hops also have anti-inflammatory properties which come through in beer. In addition, studies have found that those who have half a drink to two drinks daily have a 25% lower risk of heart disease.
If you’ve ever felt guilty for enjoying a heaping spoon from the jar, don’t feel bad. Peanut Butter is full of healthy fats, and some studies show it can help prevent gallstones, certain kinds of cancer, and even heart disease. Just try to find all natural peanut butter without sugar or added oils for a healthier option.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Okay, it’s not HEALTHY healthy; it’s still loaded with sugar and candy, but compared to other brands of ice cream, the recipes don’t contain of a bunch of junk you can’t pronounce (there’s no fake green in the pistachio!), and it’s always made with milk from cows that aren’t treated with artificial hormones (which DO come through to humans in milk). Additionally, Ben & Jerry are pretty politically active, so if that’s important to you, supporting companies like Ben & Jerry’s may make your world sweeter in more ways than one (if only they’d bring back wavy gravy).
Black Licorice (not red...black)
We’re talking about real black licorice made from actual licorice root, not the fake stuff which is mostly corn syrup and dye. Licorice root has been used for centuries to treat digestive issues, including ulcers. And one study out of Japan showed that people taking a daily dose of licorice oil lost more weight than those in a control group.
Specifically, Chipotle burritos. They cook everything fresh in house, use local produce when possible and use antibiotic free, humanely raised meats, as well as brown rice if you’re looking for healthier carbs. If you’re worried about calories, cut back on the sour cream and cheese and have extra salsa or fajita veggies added.
Surprised by a fast food chain on this list? Wait until you see number 4!
There’s not a lot of “healthy” redemption for cookies, unless you make your own and omit a lot of the sugar or white flour, but Graham Crackers are pretty good for you. When the crackers were invented, Graham developed a processes for milling flour which preserved more of the whole wheat, and that’s still how they’re made today. Yes, they have more sugar now than in years gone by, but compared to a package of cookies they’re much better for you.
Pizza can actually be really good for you, depending on the quality and how you top it. A slice of veggie pizza with tomato sauce and cheese is loaded with vitamins and calcium. If you make your own pizza from scratch, you can use the best quality ingredients and make it with whole wheat crust, top it with lots of veggies, making it a healthy option for dinner.
Ramen is in some ways the world’s most well know and celebrated junk foods, and it comes in many forms. In the US, we’re most familiar with the little plastic covered brick of carbs and salty seasoning as a staple among the poor and college-aged.
The good news? There IS a way to make a healthier alternative to simply noodles and salt. Just add 1/2-1 cup of frozen veggies to cook with your noodles and maybe even an egg. Use LESS of the evil salty seasoning packet, or omit it all together and use miso sauce or a little bit of soy sauce.
Wine is good for your heart…again, having a glass of wine a few times a week, not getting sloshed on the whole bottle. It contains a chemical called Resveratrol (found in grape skins), which studies suggest can help protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.
Much like red meat, egg yolks have fallen to the “CHOLESTEROL AND FAT = BAD” stigma that has been pushed for so many years. But researchers are finding more and more that patients hospitalized for heart attacks often have “normal” cholesterol levels. In addition to that, due to changes in diet for most commercial egg-laying hens, eggs actually have less cholesterol than a even a decade ago. Cholesterol is actually pretty essential to keeping our body running, so getting it from good sources like eggs, rather than over-processed industrialized vegetable oils is a good idea. Plus, again, it’s full of protein and low-carb, so for many on restrictive diets, they’re a perfect way to start the day. The whole egg. Cooked in butter if you’d like. (We’ll get to butter later.)
Oysters are somewhat polarizing – people love them or think they’re sea snot. However, they’re one of the most concentrated sources of Zinc available. Zinc is a vital mineral for all humans, but specifically for men’s sexual health, which may explain oysters’ reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Yes, bacon. Aside from being packed with protein, making a good low-carb snack, bacon actually has LESS saturated fat than many cuts of beef. It also contains a nutrient call choline which helps keep our brain healthy and may even prevent mental diseases like Alzheimer’s. The Omega-3 fatty acids as well as the choline in bacon can also help prevent heart disease. Yes, prevent. With bacon.
Popcorn is actually really darn good for you. It’s full of fiber and antioxidants (which do lots of good things). The problem with popcorn is that people usually put a bunch of junk on top of it – like sugar, and salt, and butter, and more salt. Don’t do that. Pop some the old fashioned way in an air popper or on the stove with a little bit of olive oil, season it with sea salt or freshly grated Parmesan and Tada! Healthy and tasty movie snack.
Going out for sushi might be considered a guilty pleasure, but it’s actually pretty good for you, yes, even with the white rice. Sushi packs a lot of protein, and fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids are not only vital to our brain health, but they’re also anti-inflammatory. While, the white rice isn’t GREAT for you (particularly since sushi rice usually has sugar added), you can opt for healthier brown rice, and skip the salty sauces if you want to be REALLY healthy. Or just skip the fried rolls and acknowledge that you aren’t eating something that’s terrible for you.
One “junk food” that has some of the most well known positive effects is Chocolate. Mmm chocolate. Dark chocolate, specifically, has the most benefits, though milk chocolate is still beneficial, just not as much. It’s a good source of antioxidants and magnesium, as well as flavanols which can actually help reduce blood pressure. So if you’re having a rough day, go ahead and have some chocolate.
Blue M&Ms and Blue Sports Drinks
The dye used in these things might actually one day help treat spinal cord injuries. It’s worked in lab rats so far, though human trials are still a few years away.
Not cheese in a can or the oily sort of plastic cheese you get on most pizza, but REAL, aged cheese made with milk and rennet. Some studies have even found that INCREASING the number of dairy products you have daily to five times per day resulted in more weight loss and less abdominal fat, as well as a lowered risk of heart disease. Cheese from grass fed and pasture-raised animals is higher in necessary vitamins like K2.
Okay, we’re not saying that a Cheesy Gordita Crunch is health food, but Taco Bell has actually made their Cantina menu pretty healthy, and their refried beans are made without any animal products like lard, so it’s entirely possibly to eat vegan/vegetarian friendly at the Bell. If you ask for anything made “Fresco Style,” they replace the cheese and sour cream with pico de gallo.
Hot Sauce & Chili Peppers
Hot sauce – and chili peppers – contain capsaicin, which can curb your appetite. Capsacin also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
At least, butter from grass fed cows, like Kerrygold. Butter from cows that eat grass and butter from cows that eat processed grain and corn is vastly different, and grass fed butter contains all sorts of things that are good for your body and brain, like vitamin K2 (which de-calcifies arteries) and a Omega 3 fatty acids.
Believe it or not, yeah, pork rinds are actually a healthy junk food alternative to a bag of potato chips. One ounce provides 17 grams of protein, which is 9 times more than in a serving of ye olde potato chips. Most of the fat is Oleic Acid, which is a healthy fat like olive oil, and one of the other fats – stearic acid – doesn’t raise cholesterol.
Not all junk food has benefits. To look at some of the negative effects of junk food, take a look at 25 Junk Food Facts That Might Convince You To Eat Healthier.
Photos: Feature Image: Shutterstock, 22. AZAdam / Adam Original uploader was Scharks at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Vanderdecken at en.wikipedia., Vegemite and Marmite, CC BY-SA 2.0, 19. punctuated via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 18. Mike Mozart via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 14. frankieleon via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 12. Max Pixel (public domain), 10. cyclonebill, Flickr – cyclonebill – Bacon (1), CC BY-SA 2.0, 6. David Adam Kess, (M&M’s), Blue, CC BY-SA 4.0, 4. Anthony92931, Taco Bell Night, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2. Steve Karg, Western-pack-butter, CC BY 2.5