The Great Health Debates: Are Coffee, Salt, Chocolate, And More Good Or Bad For You?

The health food world is filled with myths, facts, and inevitable truths, but what about the health items that even experts cannot agree on? Navigating the choppy waters of healthy eating can be tricky, but it's important to know which foods to incorporate into your diet and which foods to avoid completely.

Click here for The Great Health Debates: Are Coffee, Salt, Chocolate, and More Good or Bad For You? slideshow.

For many people, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the food pyramid seem like a foreign language. Both serve as reference points for Americans about what to eat, what not to eat, and how much each person should consume daily. The most important factors when it comes to health and well-being are the most recent guidelines that are published every several years. These findings place a heavy emphasis on foods that are minimally processed and naturally grown, such as fruits and vegetables.

The advantage of the guidelines is that they give Americans a general overview of what they should eat on a day-to-day basis. However, some everyday foods and drinks, such as chocolate and coffee, are not highlighted in the guidelines as being unhealthy or healthy.

Zagat released a study that said about 82 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, and the average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. So shouldn't we know the health benefits or detriments of what we are consuming? I spoke with Chris Mohr, registered dietician and nutrition expert, who insisted that everything can be consumed in moderation. Here's the low-down on nine everyday foods that may or may not be healthy for you.

A study in the journal Heart found that higher chocolate intake was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular problems. About an ounce a day goes a long way, according to Mohr, and eating chocolate in moderation is very beneficial. Be sure to choose chocolate wisely. The higher amount of cocoa and the darker the chocolate, the more flavonals it contains. Flavonals have antioxidant properties that have been shown to lower blood pressure. 

Coffee has several benefits, and it contains antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and protect against heart failure. However, don't feel like you need to drink coffee if you have not started yet. Coffee has also been linked with anxiety and symptoms of depression, and antioxidants can also be found in nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains.