12 Junk Foods That are Actually Good for You

6 minute read

By Kathleen Corrigan

The term ‘junk food’ often comes with a stigma, but not all treats are detrimental to our health. Some snacks can surprisingly hold some nutritional value. Start a search today to discover more junk foods that aren’t actually as bad as we thought.

Reevaluating these foods sheds light on their potential benefits, from providing energy to offering unexpected nutrients. This perspective encourages a more balanced and less restrictive approach to snacking.

12. Blue M&Ms

Obviously, candy is loaded with sugar, however studies have shown that M&Ms, particularly the blue ones, can have a surprising benefit that you might not know about. Blue M&Ms get their color from a dye called Brilliant Blue G (BBG), which is also found in blue Gatorade.

A study at the University of Rochester found that by injecting rats with spinal cord injuries with BBG, the rodents actually regained their ability to walk, while those who were not dosed with the substance remained immobile. The study suggests that BBG could be useful in treating spinal cord injuries in humans, so if you’re suffering from such an injury, now’s your chance to pull a diva move and demand an entire bowl of blue M&Ms to aid in your recovery.

11. Cheese Whiz

It might sound crazy, but Cheese Whiz isn’t as bad for you as you might think. It contains conjugated lineolic acids (CLAs), which were once dismissed as a trans-fat but have since been vindicated and found to fight weight gain, arthritis, and even cancer. One study showed that Cheese Whiz contains more CLAs than any other type of cheese. Which isn’t to say that you should eat a ton of it (since foods rich in CLAs tend to be high calorie), but rather you should no longer be ashamed to spread some on your toast once in a while.

10. Red Wine

There’s no need to feel guilty about kicking back with a glass of red after a hard day because aside from being relaxing, wine can be good for you in a few different ways.

Studies have shown that red wines contain antioxidants like flavonoids and resveratrol, which are thought to help lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce blood clots, control your blood sugar, and reduce beta-amyloid proteins in the brain which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. One study at the University of Virginia even found that resveratrol, which comes from the skin of red grapes, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

9. Beef Jerky

You might be surprised to discover that anything you buy at a gas station is good for you — but it’s true. Beef jerky, while sometimes containing high levels of sodium, is also packed with around 10 grams of protein per serving and contains healthy fats which can help your brain function better and do your body good. This cured meat snack is becoming more and more popular with the health-nut crowd, so it’s easier than ever to find healthier jerky with fewer additives, lower sodium, and a better taste and texture than your run-of-the-mill convenience store Slim Jim.

8. Butter

Since the 1980s, we’ve been told that “fat makes you fat” and butter substitutes have been pushed as a healthier alternative to traditional butter. However now that the myths surrounding the low-fat diet fad have been busted, many experts say that not only is butter perfectly safe to eat, but it is also chock full of nutrients that can strengthen your bodily functions and fight off disease.

Butter is full of vitamin K2, which can help fight off heart disease and osteoporosis, conjugated linoleic acid, which is thought to help ward off cancer, and fatty acid butyrate, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

7. Stout

Guinness used to advertise their Irish stout with the tagline “Guinness is good for you” and even though that statement isn’t entirely true, stout beers do have a nutritional advantage over other beers. All beers contain probiotics, antioxidants, and B vitamins, but stout is made with barley — which makes it especially high in fibre and folate, a B Vitamin that aids in the creation of DNA.

A pint of Guinness also has fewer calories than most other beers and has a lower alcohol content with a 4.2 percent ABV. It used to be widely believed that Guinness was good for nursing mothers, however doctors today dispel this as myth and do not recommend drinking alcohol while breast-feeding.

6. Black Licorice

Much like cilantro, black licorice is a divisive flavor that you either love or hate. If you love it, we’ve got some good news! Authentic black licorice is made from licorice root, which has been used as a natural remedy for digestion issues like ulcers and heartburn for centuries. It also encourages healthy phlegm production in the lungs and stimulates the adrenal gland, which reduces stress.

Although its medicinal benefits, be careful that you don’t love licorice too much. In fact, large amounts of it can lower your potassium levels and cause high blood pressure, fluid retention, and metabolic issues, so it’s best to stick to small doses.

5. Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake might not be the most exciting dessert option out there, but at least it’s one you can enjoy without feeling too guilty.

Compared to other cakes, this vanilla sponge cake made from sugar, flour, and egg whites is low in fat and low in calories at around 72 calories per slice. It’s also often topped with fruit, which contains fibre, vitamins, and minerals that you won’t find in a thick layer of buttercream icing. So if you’re trying to be healthy but still need to satisfy your sweet tooth, angel food cake is a choice you can feel good about.

4. Ketchup

If you’re going to eat French fries, at least be sure to dunk them in something that offers some nutritional value.

Ketchup is made from tomatoes and contains Vitamin A, which is good for your eyes, and a phytonutrient called lycopene that’s been found to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Lycopene also offers some interesting benefits specifically for men; not only does it increase male fertility by improving sperm count, but it also reduces your chances of prostate cancer. Ketchup is also high in sugar and sodium, so you’d probably be better off just eating a tomato. But hey, it’s a start.

3. Chocolate

Is there a more satisfying treat than a piece of rich, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate? Dark chocolate, in particular, isn’t just indulgent; it’s practically healthy too.

Any chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa has been found to be rich in minerals and vitamins — such as iron, potassium, and zinc — and can improve circulation and lower cholesterol. Dark chocolate also has anti-inflammatory properties and has even proved to help people who are recovering from brain injuries or suffering from Alzheimer’s.

One study even showed that eating a square of dark chocolate before or after a meal can trigger the hormone that lets the brain know when the stomach is full, thus helping you eat less and lose weight.

2. Popcorn

Movie popcorn slathered in butter and salt is delicious but high in calories and it gives corn a bad name. Plain popcorn made at home or purchased without all that added fat and sodium can actually be a healthy treat. Not only is it high in fibre, it’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants. One such antioxidant is polyphenol, a nutrient that’s been found to prevent diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. On top of all that, at just 31 calories per cup, you don’t have to feel bad about going back for a second bowl of this tasty treat.

1. Pork rinds

It sounds counterintuitive to be munching on deep fried pigskin when you’re trying to lose weight, but people on low carb diets actually swear by this crunchy snack. Pork rind sales have increased in recent years as diets like the ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet have taken off in popularity.

Pork rinds are comprised of 70 percent protein and have zero carbohydrates, which is a lot more than you can say about potato chips or pretzels. So, if you’re craving a crunchy, carb-laden snack, try reaching for some high protein pork rinds, which can keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Kathleen Corrigan