9 Vices that are Actually Virtues

9 Vices that are Actually Virtues

With a new year comes new promises — read on for 9 things to indulge in this year.

By: Anne Marie O’Connor

Bad is the New Good
Health experts always have the reputation of being killjoys: They’re always reminding us just how many calories are in cheese fries (2,140 in case you were wondering).

New research, however, is proving that many things they had said were vices — chocolate, sleeping in — are actually good for you.

Although it doesn’t mean you can eat bon-bons 24/7, it’s nice to know you can still enjoy the smaller things in life and stay healthy.

1. Chocolate
At what had to be the yummiest meeting ever of the American Chemical Society, cocoa researchers passed around chocolate bars while extolling the many health benefits of its main ingredient.

Those researchers say it helps lower your blood pressure and increases your HDL (aka “good” cholesterol) and may also improve insulin resistance.

Before you go out and buy a 1-pound bag of candy, keep in mind that not all chocolate is created equal.

“Having 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate per day is a fantastic source of antioxidants,” which fight free radicals, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, according to Robyn L. Goldberg, a nutrition therapist in Beverly Hills,

2. Girls’ Night Out
Numerous studies have found that friendships have a greater effect on health than even your relationship with your spouse or other family members.

Results from the Nurses’ Health Study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more friends women had, the healthier they were likely to be as they aged. A large study from Brigham Young University found that people who were more social have higher rates of survival in general.

3. Appetizers
Ordering a starter doesn’t mean you’re going to bust the calorie bank at dinner. In fact, if you have an appetizer with a high content of water, such as a non-cream-based soup or green salad, you’ll feel fuller and consume fewer total calories, according to research by Barbara J. Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University.

Goldberg also recommends steamed dumplings, edamame or a grilled artichoke.

4. Coffee
Coffee’s effects have been publicized as both good and bad throughout the years, but now scientists are giving java a big thumbs up. Coffee, researchers at Harvard University have found, is full of antioxidants and helps prevent depression. Women who drink four cups of coffee a day are 20 percent less likely to be depressed.

Coffee also has a correlation with diabetes: A study in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” found that people who drink the most coffee had the lowest risk of developing type 2 diabetes. That said, making coffee your beverage of choice might not be a good idea for obvious reasons, too.

“An individual might find it difficult to unwind and fall asleep if they are constantly drinking the joe,” Goldberg says. “Keeping coffee intake to one to three cups per day seems more realistic.”

5. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter may be one of the only foods in your kitchen that hits the trifecta: It’s convenient, delicious and good for you.


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“Peanut butter is definitely a ‘superfood,’” Goldberg says. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, a cornerstone of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.

Whether it’s eaten straight from the jar or in a classic sandwich, peanut butter can also lower your risk of stroke and gallstones while providing protection against Alzheimer’s disease. And though nuts are high in calories, a study in the journal “Obesity” found that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.

6. Sleeping In
Studies have shown that sleep can help improve your memory, cognitive abilities, athletic performance, help you be more creative and avoid car accidents. It can even keep you from gaining weight: People who get less than five hours of sleep a night are heavier than well-rested people.

While most research focuses on getting to bed earlier, a study in the “Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research” found that both early birds and night owls can benefit from sleeping in.

RELATED: Check out These Tips for Getting Better Sleep

7. Stressing Out a Little
You’ve heard it again and again: Stress is a killer. Those nail-biting, max-stress days when work deadlines, kid problems and parent issues all come to a head are not good for your health.

Experts have found that some stress is actually good for you, however.

“We all know people who cannot get anything done unless they have a deadline looming,” says Lisa Berman, a psychiatrist in New York City. “For them, stress can be a necessary motivator to get things done.” And researchers at Stanford University found that short-term worries can actually boost the body’s immune system.

8. Eating Fat
Fat phobia is as outdated as scrunchies and pleated pants. In fact, a little fat in the diet can lower cholesterol, protect your heart, increase HDL (that “good” cholesterol) and make meals more satisfying, says Goldberg. Fat can also help you feel full sooner and longer, she adds.

But just like chocolate, not all fats are created equal: New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has found that saturated fat is just as bad for your cognitive function and memory as it is for your cardiovascular health. Instead, Goldberg recommends adding monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, almonds and other nuts, and flax seeds to your diet.

9. Shopping
There is actually some truth in so-called retail therapy: A study in “The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health” found that people who shopped every day lived longer than those who only shopped once a week.

The researchers speculated that shopping promotes physical activity as well as social interaction and mental activity — all of which are associated with longevity. Just be aware that it can be addictive, Berman says.

“If you’re using shopping to uplift your mood, you could be self-medicating,” Berman says. “But there are ways that you can shop without it being harmful. You can even just go grocery shopping or get the tiniest little thing and it can satisfy that urge to spend money."

RELATED: Shop Your Closet Challenge

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