A Little Goes a Long Way with These 5 Decadent Foods

Think healthy eating requires giving up your favorite treats? Think again. Small quantities of these seemingly indulgent dishes may actually improve your health.

1. Dark Chocolate

A little bit: Cocoa contains disease-fighting antioxidants that can lower blood pressure. It may even increase blood flow to the brain, reducing stroke risk.

Too much: Most chocolate products come packed with sugar and calories. You might have to cut back on other treats to fit it into your diet.

2. Lean Beef

A little bit: Beef and other lean red meats provide protein—critical to muscle, bone and skin health. Eating more could help older adults stay healthy while shedding pounds, one study suggests.

Too much: Fatty red meat contains artery-clogging saturated fat and has been linked to some cancers. Choose lean cuts—look for words like round, loin or sirloin. And alternate with chicken, fish and plant-based proteins.

3. Avocado

A little bit: Beyond its good-for-you fats, avocados help improve heart health, thanks to other nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Too much: About a half-avocado per day provides significant nutrients. Healthy fats contain the same number of calories as saturated fats, and eating too much can pack on pounds.

4. Nuts and Nut Butters

A little bit: Walnuts, among others, contain heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Nearly half the fat in peanut butter is monounsaturated, which improves cholesterol levels.

Too much: A 1-ounce—or 1/3-cup—serving of nuts contains about 160 to 180 calories. It’s easy to go overboard and gain weight.

5. Red Wine

A little bit: Drinking small quantities of alcohol has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Red wine specifically may contain some compounds that boost HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels.

Too much: Healthy drinking stops at one alcoholic beverage per day for women, two for men. More could contribute to weight gain and increase your risk for heart problems and cancer.