It’s the holiday season! That means celebrations with family, friends and co-workers. It also means time for holiday foods which may not be healthy holiday foods.
Now, while that plate of cookies, cakes and sweets may not do the waistline any favors, many holiday foods taste good and offer great health benefits. Here are 7 you’ll probably see and shouldn’t feel guilty eating.
Nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, brazil nuts, cashews…the list could go on, but really you can’t go wrong with the lean protein and healthy fats in any of them. Many nuts contain heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and fiber which helps satisfy hunger. Nuts also contain L-arginine, a precursor nutrient to nitric oxide, the molecule your body uses to keep blood vessels flexible. So, if you see a bowl out as a snack, grab a handful and feel good about it.
Cranberries. Some nutrition experts call cranberries a “super food” and it may be a well-deserved title. This seasonal fruit is an excellent source of vitamins C, E and K, and antioxidants. Cranberries are renowned for helping keep the urinary tract healthy, but recent research also reports they may support digestive health too. Cranberries contain a non-digestible sugar called xyloglucans. It has prebiotic properties and feeds Bifidobacteria in the digestive tract, one of the essential “probiotics” in the gut.
Turkey. This lean protein may not be for everyone, but if you like it, dig in. Vitamins B6 and niacin play a role in energy production while zinc, potassium and phosphorus are essential minerals. The tryptophan in turkey may make you sleepy, but it is a precursor nutrient for serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood and mental health.
Fish. Many traditions include fish in their celebrations. Some including swordfish, tuna, king mackerel and orange roughy should be limited or avoided as they have some of the highest levels of mercury. Other fish like salmon, tilapia, sardines along with scallops and oysters offer a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc.
Sweet Potatoes. Another great holiday tradition, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of B vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin C and minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese, an important trace mineral. Research indicates that when manganese is ingested with calcium, zinc, copper and other minerals in sweet potatoes, it may reduce spinal bone loss and improve bone mass in older women. Add a little cinnamon for a flavor that also supports healthy blood sugar.
Red Wine. A glass of red wine is a great way to get the health benefits of resveratrol. This powerful antioxidant protects the body and studies show it also helps boost glutathione levels. Of course, wine contains high amounts of sugar which can quickly counteract any benefits and alcohol which means it must be consumed responsibly.
Dark Chocolate. When you reach the dessert table, head for the dark chocolate. Research shows this super food delivers more antioxidants than pomegranate, acai, cranberry and blueberry. Dark chocolate is also a great source of iron, magnesium and zinc, an important mineral for the immune system. When you see dark chocolate, indulge a little, you’re eating a health food!
Truong VL1, Jun M2, Jeong WS1. Role of resveratrol in regulation of cellular defense systems against oxidative stress. Biofactors. 2017 Nov 28. doi: 10.1002/biof.1399. [Epub ahead of print] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29193412
Crozier SJ1, et al. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chem Cent J. 2011 Feb 7;5:5. doi: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5. https://ccj.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/1752-153X-5-5