What’s Thanksgiving without tons of food to share with friends and family? It’s true that many Thanksgiving foods are high in calories, but some Thanksgiving offerings rank high on the nutritional scale, high enough to anoint them the status of Thanksgiving superfoods. Here are some Thanksgiving foods with impressive nutritional credentials.
Thanksgiving Superfoods #1: Turkey
It’s the main focus of the meal and one of the lowest calorie options on the table. White, skinless turkey breast has only 160 calories per serving and 30 grams of protein. It’s hard to find a leaner source of protein. Plus, it’s a good source of B vitamins, selenium and zinc. Choose white meat turkey, and peel the skin off to save calories and fat. Dark meat has more calories and fat, but it also has larger amounts of zinc, selenium, and iron.
Thanksgiving Superfoods #2: Cranberry Sauce
Okay, it’s a little high in sugar, but cranberries are a powerhouse of antioxidants. They contain proanthocyanidins, natural compounds that have anti-cancer benefits as well as a compound called pterostilbene that helps to lower cholesterol levels. You need a little of that after a Thanksgiving meal! The same proanthocyanidins that help to ward off cancer also fight mouth plaque and bacteria and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. To get the health benefits of cranberry sauce without the added sugar, make it with a natural sweetener like Stevia.
Thanksgiving Superfoods #3: Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes earn superfood status because of the beta carotene they contain. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and it also has antioxidant power of its own. Beta-carotenes in sweet potatoes help to ward off eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and keep night vision sharp when they’re converted to vitamin A. They’re also important for a healthy immune system. Choose sweet potatoes over regular potatoes, and enjoy the additional nutritional benefits. They also have more fiber and less impact on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Thanksgiving Superfoods #4: Pumpkin
Like sweet potatoes, pumpkin is a good source of beta-carotene that boosts the body’s ability to fight off seasonal colds and flu viruses. Unfortunately, pumpkin is usually only available at Thanksgiving in the form of pie, which is not the ideal way to enjoy its healthy goodness. One way to nix the sugar and still enjoy the taste of pumpkin pie is to make it with a low-calorie sweetener. Even better, make sugar-free pumpkin mousse or pudding, and you won’t have to deal with the high-calorie crust.
Thanksgiving Superfoods #5: Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Brussels sprouts are a popular Thanksgiving side-dish, and it certainly earns its status as a Thanksgiving superfood. Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain natural chemicals like sulforaphane’s and indoles that help keep cancer at bay. Indoles in Brussels sprouts convert estrogen to a form that’s less carcinogenic. This may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer. In addition, eating Brussels sprouts helps enzymes in your liver better detoxify chemicals in food and in the environment that could damage DNA and lead to cancer. This is a side dish you can feel good about putting in your mouth.
The Bottom Line?
Thanksgiving is a time with lots of indulgences, but a few superfoods as well. Add these nutritional stars to your plate this Thanksgiving, and enjoy their health benefits.
World’s Healthiest Foods website.
The Nutritionist. Robert Wildman, Ph.D., RD. 2002.