Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and along with it, the chastisement of eating too much, warnings of holiday weight gain, and an examination of the gluttonous nature of Americans. This pessimistic view is too out of step with the cheer meant for the holiday season.
That table bulging under the weight of Thanksgiving offerings is holding up a fair amount of superfoods too. “Superfood” is the term popularly given to a food that boasts health benefits; for example, if it is a good source of vitamins and minerals that can aid in disease prevention, or vitamins that are part of a healthy diet.
So, they may not be prepared to their greatest advantage (it is the holidays after all), but the nutrients are still there. Check out the following 7 components of a typical Turkey Day meal to see how they can benefit, not burden your diet.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook wrote about the benefits of sweet potatoes. In addition to containing vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, potassium, and magnesium, sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids like beta carotene. Beta carotene and carotenoids can help improve eyesight, defend against cancer, and fight signs of aging.
Turkey does a lot of things, and making you sleepy isn’t one of them. Registered Dietitianm (RD) Tara Gidus gave the rundown on some of this bird’s best traits. First up, it is a lean protein, helping you stay fuller longer. It is also a complete protein, meaning all eight amino acids that are essential for building protein in the body are present. It is chock full of minerals that help boost cell growth and immunity, and it is naturally low in sodium.
3. Whole Grains
Bread has been getting a pretty bad rap recently, but if your dinner rolls at Thanksgiving are 100 percent whole grains, you’re helping your heart while consuming nutrients like selenium, potassium, and magnesium, according to The Mayo Clinic. They are naturally low in fat, and have been shown to lower the risk of Type-2 Diabetes and obesity. As long as the grain hasn’t been refined, or enriched, you’ll reap the whole reward offered by these grains.
Cranberries are a good source of antioxidants, The Dairy Council of California explains, because of their disease-combatting flavonoids and phenolic acids. They also fight cancer, preventing oral, colon, and prostate cancer cell growth, and may impede on the spread of cancer throughout the body. Cranberries can also lower bad cholesterol levels while raising good cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Looking for yet another reason to enjoy cranberries year round? Research has found that regularly eating cranberries can help inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria, which causes ulcers and other digestive problems.
The San Diego Center for Health found praise for raw pumpkin, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin seeds, covering anyway you might enjoy this superfood. It is high in dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin in pumpkin may help prevent cataracts. Canned pumpkin has more protein and fiber per serving than per cup raw, and pumpkin seeds pack protein, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, manganese and zinc within their tiny shells.
If you plan on sipping something other than water with your Thanksgiving meal, a “superdrink” of choice may be in order. Coffee, long a poster-child of health risks, is now getting credit as a superfood. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide explains that coffee has antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease. It may also fight cancer and Parkinson’s disease and reduce the risk for developing diabetes.
7. Dark Chocolate
To continue getting superfoods during dessert, opt for one with dark chocolate or cocoa powder. A study published in 2011 found “Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit” providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition.” WebMD summarized this study, and others, when discussing dark chocolate and cocoa powder. They highlight that the two forms of chocolate have been discovered to have higher levels of antioxidants than some fruits, and can contribute to better heart health by increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
The darker the chocolate, the bigger the antioxidant punch. Sadly, cocoa powder only retains its protective polyphenolic compounds when it is not alkalized, which is what the majority of cocoa powders on the market are.