The holiday season is a wonderful time of year! For most people it means getting together with family and friends to give thanks, celebrate, feast and relax. It is the time of the year you throw your diet to the wind and indulge yourself in holiday eating with a bountiful array of foods. Traditionally it is the mighty turkey that takes center stage along with a chorus of stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, squash, and other vegetables. Let’s not forget the cranberry sauce, relish tray and oh yes, the pumpkin pie.
It’s no wonder that January brings on eaters’ remorse due to overeating. You know what I mean; you eat too many desserts, drink a bit too much, and with all the running around you actually exercise less. You might even be looking forward to those leftovers you worked so hard to prepare. Well if you are feeling guilty, don’t! You may be giving yourself more than just a full stomach. Many of the foods on your plate are loaded with immunity boosting anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals such as selenium, zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin C and much, much more.
Health Benefits of Holiday Dinners
If these power packed foods are gracing your holiday dinner table, you’re in luck. Many of your holiday foods actually contribute to healthy eating. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits you may have gained from your dinner.
Turkey is an excellent source of protein. Just a 4 oz. serving provides 65% of the daily value the body needs to make the pattern of amino acids we require. If that’s not enough, turkey contains selenium, which is a mineral that is an essential to the functioning of our thyroid metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Selenium has been suggested to induce DNA repair and inhibit cancer cells from reproducing. The same 4 oz. of turkey will provide 47% of the daily value of selenium needed.
Potatoes contain phytonutirents that have antioxidant activity. They are a good source of vitamin C and B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Potatoes get a bad reputation for being high in carbs but the benefits are not to be ignored.
The phytochemicals in potatoes rival that of broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts. Included in this group are flavonoids that help protect you against cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and some cancers. Potatoes also contain high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin, and kukoamines which are known to have blood pressure lowering qualities. Make sure you bake, steam or sauté your potatoes to get the health benefits they provide.
Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Pumpkin and Winter Squash is an excellent source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin, B3 and pantothenic acid. There are a number of winter squash varieties including: butternut, acorn, hubbard, turban, and pumpkin. Beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid is found in highest amounts in pumpkin, corn, red bell peppers, tangerines, oranges and peaches and may lower your risk of developing lung cancer.
Squash extract has been found to help support men’s health by reducing the symptoms of BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy). This a condition in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged, and interferes with urinary function.
Cranberries are truly one of nature’s gifts to humanity. Cranberry juice has long been recognized as an effective treatment for urinary tract infections and protection against viruses. Laboratory studies have shown that a phytonutrient isolated from cranberries is helpful in combating the herpes simplex virus. Cranberries have the ability to block adhesion of pathogenic organisms such as E. coli. Other studies show that cranberry juice prevents bacterium that causes gastric ulcers and is even effective in decreasing tooth decay.
Pecans offer a package of health benefits that is impressive. Of course we are talking about the nuts themselves, not the sugar and corn syrup that goes into that glorious piece of pecan pie.
Dietary Guidelines say that eating 4-5 servings of nuts offer a number of healthy advantages.
Pecans are a rich source of oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil. It was found that oleic acid has the ability to suppress a gene in cells that trigger breast cancer. One ounce serving of pecans provides 25% more oleic acid than one tablespoon of olive oil. Including pecans in your daily diet helps lower cholesterol and has also shown to be effective in treating BPH as described earlier. Pecans are also low in carbs so they are great for people on a weight loss plan.
Red wine is a wonderful way to celebrate a holiday and is a compliment to any good meal. Besides being festive, red wine is rich in antioxidants flavonoids and resveratrol which is found in grape skins and seeds. Resveratrol increases HDL cholesterol and prevents blood clotting. Flavonoids help prevent blood clots and plaques formation in the arteries.
The Choice Is Yours
Eating the right foods will actually enhance your health and give you the energy you need to get up and get going. Remember balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise daily, get plenty of sleep, and make wise eating choices to boost your immunity. Stock your medicine cabinet full of natural remedies to supplement your diet and help you stay well all year long.
I sincerely hope your holidays are joyful and that you are feeling somewhat relieved to know the foods you so enjoy pack a healthy punch. The key to good health is “everything in moderation”. Go ahead and indulge in all the good things the holidays offer but make sure your portions are a little lighter. Give yourself a break this season, have fun, and make this holiday the best one yet!