All too often, the official news on staying healthy comes down to a list of “don’ts.” To combat depression, for example, most nutritional guides suggest completely cutting out all sugar, refined flours, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, dairy, all junk food and any other foods containing preservatives or chemical additives.
Nothing would make me more depressed than completely cutting out all sugar, refined flours, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, dairy, all junk food and any other foods containing preservatives or chemical additives.
Even with good intentions, defining your diet or life in the negative – what you shouldn’t do – isn’t good advice for anyone. Just as important as your physical health is your mental health, and worrying about all the “bad” things you are eating only adds a layer of stress to the existing negative effects of a plate of nachos or slice of chocolate cake.
No foods are inherently good or bad; we affix these labels to certain products due to their high caloric content or psychotropic effects (which usually stand in direct relation to their deliciousness). Take off the value labels that you have placed on food, and have a new look at a few “bad” things that can actually be good for you:
1. Coffee Coffee’s stimulant effects have been well documented for centuries, ever since the new brew made possible the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century (before that, everyone was just drinking alcohol). Caffeine increases muscle strength, metabolism, mental acuity and pain relief medication effects. It can also reduce asthma symptoms and defends against diabetes, and several new studies have shown that a daily coffee habit protects the brain against Alzheimer’s disease as well. Give the Ethical Bean a try!
2. Alcohol Social benefits aside, alcohol (consumed in moderation, of course) has some surprisingly positive effects on the body – it protects your heart. Drinking beer, wine or hard spirits reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, and can even reduce the damage to affected tissue after a heart attack. Basically, having a drink or two a day is associated with a reduction of cardiac mortality. Take two shots and call me in the morning!
3. Marijuana Anyone who has smoked a doobie knows the profound mental relaxation effects of Cannabis sativa, which is now approved for medical use in dozens of states, and decriminalized in many more. A weed that has been harvested and used as medicine for over 10,000 years, marijuana’s benefits are many, including treatment for glaucoma, gastrointestinal illness, menstrual cramps, ADD and nausea. Marijuana can also stimulate hunger – a crucial need for chemotherapy patients. For those concerned about the smoke’s effects on their lungs, try vaporization, or eat your medical marijuana in the form of cookies, brownies or as a tincture that is put directly on the tongue; there's even marijuana soda. No rolling papers needed.
4. Cheese The bane of dieters everywhere, fatty and full-flavored cheese is also the reason many people can’t go vegan. A fermented dairy product, cheese has a bad rap – but did you know that eating cheese reduces hypertension and relieves the symptoms of osteoporosis? Cheese helps to maintain bone health, and that includes your teeth; its high level of calcium is what the dentist ordered for a strong and lasting smile – so be sure to eat your Brie with a grin.
5. Chocolate Usually packed with milk and sugar (and the additional calories they contain), chocolate is not optional for many chocoholics, who must consume the brown delight at least once a day to feel right in the head. The good news: Cocoa contains bioflavonoids, which are anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer. These powerful antioxidants may help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer – just be sure to eat the potent dark chocolate instead of the lighter, sugar-filled version. Cocoa is also great for boosting your sex drive.