As another year rolls around, we often turn our thoughts to resolutions and personal goals, which typically includes promising to give up something. Whether it’s smoking, cookies and ice cream, or sleeping in (so you can hit the gym or the neighborhood running track), such resolutions frequently have a negative connotation, even though they are associated with positive outcomes.
Rather than focusing on eliminating things from our lives, what if we made a list of things not to give up? Here’s what you should keep in your life in 2017.
Chocolate. Chocolate is sometimes referred to as a guilty pleasure, but there’s nothing sinful about enjoying dark chocolate on a regular basis. Choose unsweetened or semi-sweet dark chocolate that has a cacao content of at least 70 percent, as the higher the cacao content, the lower the sugar. Reach for chocolate that is fair trade, which is more ethical, or organic, which means it does not contain GMOs and is lower in or free of pesticides.
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and has been associated with lowering levels of bad cholesterol, preventing cognitive decline, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, among other health benefits.
Eggs. Controversy surrounding cholesterol found in eggs and an association with cardiovascular disease has been around for decades, but many experts believe they have fried that debate, at least for the time being. Aside from the fact that we need some cholesterol to help us digest fats, to protect our nerve cells, and to produce vitamin D and critical hormones, research also suggests cholesterol from eggs is not a risk factor for cardiovascular disease for everyone.
In a meta-analysis of studies, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that eating one egg daily was not associated with an increased risk of suffering heart attacks or strokes, although people with diabetes did appear to have a higher risk of heart disease associated with eating one egg per day.
When choosing eggs, select those from free-range chickens who have been fed organic feed, or support your local free-range farmer.
Fat (the healthy kinds). So much has been written about healthy versus unhealthy fats, yet it can be easy to lump them together and worry about eating any fat at all. Yet healthy fats, which include monounsaturated fats, medium-chain triglycerides, and, to a lesser extent, polyunsaturated fats, are different from the unhealthy varieties, which include trans fats (found most commonly in hydrogenated oils).
Polyunsaturated oils, such as safflower, walnut, and sunflower, can help lower bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol, but should be used in moderation because they contain higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which most of us already get enough of.
My favorite type of fats (and in my opinion, the healthiest) are coconut oil, rich in medium-chain triglycerides, and extra-virgin olive and avocado oils, rich in monounsaturated fat.
Of the essential fatty acids (a type of polyunsaturated fat), omega-3s are especially known for their cardio protective and anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s are found in cold water fish, walnuts, and flax seed, among other foods.
Potatoes. These earth-loving tubers continue to get a bad rap, especially among people who are trying to lose weight. Yet banning potatoes—white, purple, or sweet—from your diet is not a healthy move. A small baked potato (with skin) provides three grams of protein, zero grams of fat, and over 20 percent of your daily vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. A small sweet potato with skin provides more than 230 percent vitamin A and 20 percent vitamin C.
If you allow a cooked potato to cool, it produces high levels of resistant starch, which helps the body burn 25 percent more fat. In a study of overweight adults, it was shown that eating five to seven servings of potatoes per week resulted in modest weight loss, not gain.
The secret to enjoying potatoes is to skip the sour cream, gobs of butter, and deep-frying and instead savor their goodness with herbs and spices, salsa, onions, or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. You also can combine mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower for a real treat.
Salt. Conventional iodized table salt is a nutritionally dead product that has been exposed to toxins, pollutants, and other chemicals. It is usually composed of around 97 to 98 percent sodium chloride and 2 to 3 percent other ingredients, which may include iodine, moisture-absorbing materials, and even sugar. A healthy alternative is Himalayan salt, which harbors 84 natural elements and minerals present in the human body and contains few impurities, as it has been in the earth for more than 250 million years and was formed in an environment free from contaminants.
Himalayan salt also has a unique structure that allows it to house vibrational energy, and its minerals are minute enough for easy absorption by the body. Some of the health benefits attributed to natural Himalayan salt may include promoting blood sugar health, facilitating vascular health, regulating water levels in the body, enhancing bone strength, and reducing the incidence of sinus problems.
Saturated Fat. For years, we were told that eating saturated fat was unhealthy and associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. As we’ve learned more about saturated fats, it appears that some are good for us and others not so much. In the former category are medium-chain fatty acids (such as capric, caprylic, and lauric acids), which boost energy, improve body composition, and may enhance cognition and insulin sensitivity. They are found in coconut and palm oils, as well as butter.
Short-chain fatty acids (such as butyric and caproic acids), have anti-inflammatory and gut health benefits, and are found in dairy foods from grass-fed animals (not factory-farmed animals). The saturated fats we want to avoid are the long-chain varieties (such as myristic, palmitic, and stearic acids), which are found in processed foods and factory-farmed meats and dairy products. These saturated fats are associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Eating moderate amounts of foods rich in short- and medium- chain fatty acids can provide a healthy level of saturated fat in your diet. Saturated fats are necessary for facilitating brain function, helping to incorporate calcium into bone, protecting the liver and the lungs, and assisting with nerve signaling.
Andrea Donsky is an author, registered holistic nutritionist, editor-in-chief of NaturallySavvy.com, and co-founder of The Healthy Shopper Inc. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com