I'm a huge fan of coffee: I love the taste, I relish the ritual and I certainly don't mind the mental clarity that comes after drinking that first cup. I've always known that I'm just one of many people who has an affinity for (or an addiction to, some might argue) "joe"-but I had no idea how much coffee we all drink.

As Joyce Hendley points out in her fascinating story on the health benefits and cons of coffee in the March/April issue of EatingWell Magazine, Americans sip-or guzzle-about 400 million cups of the stuff every day. About half of all American adults contribute to that total and our average intake is about 3 cups of coffee a day. So... my fellow coffee-lovers, read on for some good news. As it turns out, your coffee habit may actually be providing some health boons-and so, too, may other "bad" foods.

Good-for-you "bad" food #1: Coffee. It's long been presented as a habit to "kick"-advice that you may want to take to heart if it makes you super-jittery, interferes with your sleep or if you're pregnant or nursing. (Note: Studies show that some coffee is OK for pregnant or breastfeeding women.) But studies show that compounds in coffee-including but not limited to caffeine-may reduce the risk of dementia, diabetes and liver cancer, as Hendley notes in her story. Most benefits are associated with drinking 2 to 4 (8-ounce) cups a day.

Good-for-you "bad" food #2: Nuts. Yes, nuts are full of fats-but they're the good, heart-healthy unsaturated kinds. Nuts, and peanuts, which are technically legumes, also deliver other healthy nutrients-which ones depends on the nut. For example, pistachios are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help keep eyes healthy. Almonds provide vitamin E and walnuts offer significant amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. You do need to keep an eye on serving size, though: at around 160 to 200 calories per ounce, nuts do pack a substantial amount of calories.

Good-for-you "bad" food #3: Bread. The low-carb craze has died down a little, but there are still a lot of people out there who believe that "bread is bad." Bread isn't bad-eating too many refined grains is, and that's why the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making at least half of the grains you consume whole grains. Switching to 100% whole-wheat bread, or other whole-grain breads, is one way to do that. And good news: new research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who eat more whole grains live longer.

Good-for-you "bad" food #4: Corn. Lately, people have been having a "hate" affair with corn. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that corn is used to make the sweetener high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and ethanol. Thing is, as contributing food editor Carolyn Malcoun has pointed out, the corn that makes HFCS and ethanol is not the delicious sweet corn that you eat off the cob. And that corn, while not as nutrient-packed as, say, berries, is quite nutritious: it contains 4 grams of fiber per 1 cup of kernels, or about 1 large ear. Like most other yellow and green vegetables, corn is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Good-for-you "bad" food #5: Cheese. OK, so cheese is not really inherently good for you: full-fat varieties contain significant amounts of saturated fats, which are linked to high blood cholesterol and heart disease. But cheese does provide protein and good amounts of calcium (especially Swiss). In my book, including small amounts of cheese in your diet can go a long way in keeping you satisfied, which ultimately can help you to manage your weight-and, as the new dietary guidelines emphasize, achieving a healthy weight alone will help reduce your risk for many chronic diseases.

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