Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Maybe you have several. Whether yours is an embarrassingly bad reality TV show or a sticky pastry, it’s generally something you secretly enjoy, yet makes you feel a little embarrassed.
But really, how bad can it be? Do we really have to live our lives in a completely straight line, never deviating from the ultra healthy, or intellectual?
Moms always say, “All things in moderation,” and there’s probably more truth to that than anyone can fathom. We were supposed to eat margarine, then trans fats became the boogieman. We were supposed to avoid fats, and now we’re supposed to eat more of certain fats. We were supposed to use artificial sweeteners instead of sugars. Now the artificial stuff gets the bad press. Who told us this stuff? Scientists. Doctors. Researchers.
A list of similar contradictions could fill page after page. So who do you believe?
And to that, I say “All Hail The Guilty Pleasure” (In moderation)!
I even think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a few more to your list. There’s a sneaky side to my ideas, though. Some things that appear to be treats aren’t always so bad for you. I’ll explain why each of these guilty pleasures shouldn’t really be considered bad, but after you read why, you have my permission to forget all about it and just wallow in the decadence.
Chocolate offerings have progressed far beyond Snickers and Swiss Miss. In nearly any grocery store, you can find a variety of premium chocolate with varying amounts of cacao and sugar. You’ve probably heard that chocolate’s antioxidants and flavonoids are beneficial. However, studies are revealing more and more benefits that are becoming associated with chocolate.
For instance, studies have shown links between chocolate and lower blood pressure, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, better UV protection, lower stress, lower risk of stroke and a lower body mass index. Cocoa has also shown anti-clotting and blood-thinning properties similar to aspirin, which can improve blood flow and circulation.
For a list of 10 amazing benefits, visit the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/chocolate-health-benefits_n_1383372.html. You’ll find links to the specific scientific studies that revealed the benefits.
There’s even an (surprise, surprise) Italian study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that claims the phenylethylamine in chocolate results in higher levels of desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction. But let’s not get greedy.
- To get the benefits, choose the chocolate that’s 70% cacao or more. Cocoa is bitter by itself. The fat and sugar that make it taste good are also high in calories.
- Limit yourself to 7 ounces a week.
- If you eat large quantities, the benefits vanish.
But really, chocolate all by itself?
Let’s be honest. Telling someone to drink wine can be a touchy subject.
We’re not telling you to drink red wine.
But if you do, you might want to know that red wine in moderation has long been considered heart healthy due to its antioxidants, flavonoids and a substance called resveratrol. According to the Mayo Clinic website, red wine MAY increase levels of good cholesterol, protect against artery damage, prevent blood clots and protect against obesity and diabetes. However, the site notes that most of the studies have been performed in animals, not people. So unless you’re a mouse, proceed with caution. Oh, and the doses required to achieve some of the results would be like drinking the equivalent of 60 liters of wine a day. Don’t do that.
- If you do drink a glass a day, your wine may go bad before you finish a bottle. Get one of those small, inexpensive hand vacuum pumps that come with a couple wine stoppers. They dramatically slow the oxidation process so that you can make it through the bottle without with wine going bad.
Sometimes, to prove a point, you do a quick search to see how research backs up your assumption. Hugs, for example. Is there research that shows mental and physical benefits? Yes, of course. Lowered bad stuff and increased good stuff.
This time, though, I’ll spare you. You know a hug is a good thing, but do your own research instead. Hug someone several times a day. How did it change them? How did it change you? Did you feel more relaxed? More positive? More connected? I’m willing to bet you discover favorable results.
- If you’re not sure, get permission.
Despite the stigma that often comes with a mid-day snooze, researchers now agree that a quick 20-30 minute nap during the day can help improve learning, memory and creative thinking.
In the 2009 issue of the Harvard Health Letter (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2009/November/napping-may-not-be-such-a-no-no), Harvard researchers Robert Stickgold says that a nap can help make a person a more effective problem solver and noted that a nap can help people separate important information from the chaff of less relevant stimulus and information we receive.
- More than 20-30 minutes can make you feel groggy and recovery from the “sleep inerta” may take longer than you’d like.
- Don’t use napping as a way to justify getting less nighttime sleep. A good night’s sleep in conjunction with the occasional nap yields the best results.
Surely you have your own ideas, but you have to admit…chocolate, a glass of wine, a hug and a nap? Not a bad day. But are they “gateway pleasures.” One could but hope.
In any case, maybe you should stop thinking of them as guilty pleasures and start thinking of them as necessary pleasures.
Just remember what Mom said.
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