If you choose wisely, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean a heavy, less-than-healthy meal. Here are my picks for the best traditional Thanksgiving superfoods:
Apples—We’ve all heard the adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and provided that apple is an organic one, the saying holds some truth. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, they contain an important phytonutrient called malic acid, which when ingested helps improve energy production in your body and has been shown to help fibromyalgia sufferers.
Beets—Recommended by holistic health professionals purify the blood and cleanse the liver, beets are also high in nutrients such as folate, manganese, potassium, and vitamin C. In their uncooked state, beets also contain an important compound called betaine, which research has shown reduces several compounds linked to inflammation in the body. The phytonutrient that gives beets their rich purplish-red hue is a potent cancer fighter.
Carrots—Not only an incredibly versatile vegetable, carrots are also packed with nutrition, particularly beta carotene. A single raw carrot contains 13,500 IU of this potent antioxidant. If you’re not sure what that means … it means a whole lot of free radical fighting ability to protect against cellular damage, premature aging, cataracts, and even cancer. According to scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture, eating two carrots daily may reduce total cholesterol levels by 20 percent in those people with elevated levels.
Cranberries—Originally used by the First Nations of North America for urinary tract infections, cranberries and cranberry juice (the real deal, not the sugar-laden stuff most grocery stores dispense) are serious superfoods. According to researchers at the Alliance City Hospital in Ohio, cranberries contain compounds that prevent E. coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract making it easier to be flushed out of the body. Cranberries and pure cranberry juice also appears to flush fat, toxins, and debris from the body’s lymphatic system—a network of vessels and fluid that operates like an internal street-sweeper.
Pumpkin—Like carrots, pumpkin is packed with beta carotene. It is also a great source of complex carbs—the good carbs that help regulate blood sugar. And, don’t throw the seeds away, pumpkin seeds are powerhouses of protein and zinc—both essential nutrients for a strong immune system. Zinc is also helpful for a healthy prostate. After cutting up the pumpkin (smaller ones usually have the best flavor and nutritional value), toss the seeds with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and bake at 350 degrees until slightly brown. They’re one of my favorite snacks.
Squash—Like its relative, the pumpkin, squash is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and beta carotene, making it a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet and excellent for maintaining healthy eyesight. Use it as you might use pumpkin, or roast wedges and serve on salad, in wraps, or on sandwiches.
Sweet potatoes—High in beta carotene, C, and B6, as well as potassium, iron, and magnesium, sweet potatoes are naturally delicious and nutritionally superior to white potatoes. Their rich orange color indicates that they too are high in beta carotene which is the precursor to vitamin A in your body and necessary for healthy skin, hair, and immunity.
Turkey—A high protein food that helps stabilize blood sugar levels, turkeys also contain tryptophan which helps with sleep. The nutritional value of turkey depends largely on their feeding and the health of the bird during its life. Studies show that the use of flax, fish, or coconut oil increase the amount of omega 3 fatty acids they contain. If you eat turkey this Thanksgiving, be sure to choose ones that have been raised in humane conditions.
Adapted from The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, PhD, RNCP, ROHP.