Healthy Foods for the Holidays

Fill Your Plate with Holiday Superfoods

Don’t feel guilty about indulging during the Holiday Season, as there’s not a problem if you choose nutritious Holiday foods. While you still need to watch your portion sizes to avoid excessive calories, certain Holiday favorites are bursting with health-promoting nutrients, leading to their status as superfoods. From cinnamon to turkey, this article gives you the low-down on seven Holiday superfoods to choose for your plate.




Cinnamon

Holiday cakes, cookies and hot drinks just wouldn’t be the same without cinnamon, but did you know that regularly using this spice may help to protect your health? Cinnamon has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain the promise it shows for preventing cancer and diseases of the nervous system. Cinnamon may also aid better blood sugar control, offering protection against diabetes, and normalize blood lipids, reducing your likelihood of coronary heart disease. Although sweet cinnamon treats are not the best bet for your oral health, cinnamon’s antibacterial effects may help you guard against tooth decay.

Group of friends laughing as they sit around a table eating and drinking at Christmas. One man is reading a joke from a christmas cracker. Party hats and christmas jumpers are worn.

Cranberries

Turkey isn’t the same without a spoonful of cranberry sauce, but as cranberries are so rich in antioxidants, you may want to use cranberries in a range of other Holiday dishes. Cranberries have previously been encouraged to prevent urinary tract infections and while the evidence for this health benefit of cranberries is somewhat limited, cranberry proanthocyanidins may also protect against infections targeting the digestive system. Additionally, cranberry antioxidants may play a role in the prevention of heart disease and strokes, as well as reducing your risk of breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer. Try cranberries as a healthy addition to cookies, muffins, cakes and desserts, though watch out for dried cranberries, as these are often loaded with added sugar.




Leafy greens

Even if you aren’t a fan of Brussels sprouts, collard greens or broccoli, you probably serve these green leafy vegetables up at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse, providing lots of beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and K, as well as the mineral potassium, all of which are linked to better heart health. While beta-carotene and vitamin C have antioxidant activity, additional antioxidants in cruciferous vegetables may explain why the likes of cabbage, spinach and sprouts may protect against prostate, colon and lung cancer. If you dislike cooked leafy green vegetables, try lightly cooking in a stir-fry or serving as part of a salad.

Nuts

Although nuts are high in fat and calories, nut-eaters tend to be slimmer than people who avoid this festive snack. Nuts are also rich in heart-healthy nutrients, making them a good option for Holiday nibbles. For instance, an ounce of pecans, equivalent to around 19 halves, gives you 3g of fiber and a good intake of vitamin B1, copper and manganese, all of which play a role in heart health. Meanwhile, almonds are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E and walnuts provide a plant alternative to omega-3 fish oils. Keep a jar of mixed nuts to hand for when hunger strikes, but try to avoid nuts with added salt and sugar, as these additions reduce the health benefits of nuts.

Pumpkin

The lovely orange color of pumpkins is thanks to their beta-carotene content, with a 3.5oz serving of pumpkin meeting your daily requirement for this vitamin. That’s good news, as beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, which may protect your blood vessels from narrowing and lower your risk of cancer. If you usually opt for pumpkin pie or cookies during the Holiday Season, why not try some savory pumpkin recipes? You don’t need to limit yourself to pumpkin soup though, as pumpkin works well in everything from chilis and curries to salads and stews.




Sweet potatoes

These orange vegetables are even richer in beta-carotene than pumpkins, providing around four times the amount by weight. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and B6, as well as potassium and manganese, all of which are cardio-protective. Baking sweet potatoes and holding the butter is a better option than roasting or frying if you are calorie conscious, though a small amount of fat can help your body absorb their beta-carotene more effectively. However, if you have a sweet tooth, sweet potato can make a healthy addition to various Holiday desserts from homemade ice cream and mousse to brownies and crumbles.

Turkey

As long as you leave the skin, turkey is a low-fat meat option, but its fat content isn’t why turkey is a superfood. Turkey is rich in the mineral selenium, which plays a key role in helping your body scavenge the free radicals that contribute to health problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and neurological conditions. You’ll also get a good helping of B vitamins, especially vitamin B3 and B6, to help maintain your metabolism. Additionally, turkey provides useful amounts of zinc, which strengthens your immune system and supports wound healing. Finally, while turkey is not the richest food source of tryptophan, this amino acid is essential for serotonin production, which is associated with feelings of well-being and relaxation.

Although a varied diet is essential for good health, including superfoods may enhance your wellness and reduce your risk of future medical problems. Choosing your Thanksgiving and Christmas menu carefully can help you take advantage of several festive superfoods and their health-promoting properties.



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