The Health Benefits Hidden in Your Thanksgiving Meal

For this blog post I decided to write about some of the health benefits that can be derived from your Thanksgiving dinner, which most of us will be indulging in next week. While there are many aspects of the typical thanksgiving dinner that may not exactly be beneficial for your health (pie, stuffing, cookies, soda, alcohol) there can also be a silver lining to this wonderful all American holiday.

Turkey – Everybody knows that turkey is the main component of any proper Thanksgiving dinner. But did you know that turkey can also be beneficial for your health? Turkey, like most other meats, is a valuable source of proteins that can help your body build lean muscle and to feel full without over eating. Proteins also help keep insulin levels within your body in check during your meal. Turkey meat is a wholesome source of trace minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and selenium. The meat from a turkey also provides your body with the complete range of B vitamins from B1 to B12 and beyond. B vitamins are essential for the regulation of energy levels and for producing happy moods within your body. Finally, turkey is notorious for containing the compound trytophan which some people believes makes them tired after dinner. However, tryptophan is also considered an essential amino acid, one that your body cannot produce on its own. Tryptophan is responsible for helping regulate protein and vitamin production in your body and keeping the sleep cycle regular.

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A Thanksgiving turkey. Source: foodnetwork.com

Potatoes – In my opinion, potatoes are another must have food for Thanksgiving dinner. Unlike their fried counterparts, whole non-fried potatoes can also be beneficial for your wellbeing. Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help to improve your body’s overall state of health. Potatoes are also a great source of potassium,  even more so than bananas. The mineral potassium can help to regulate healthy blood pressure levels in the human body. Another health benefit of this tuber is found in the skin. The skin of a potato is fiber rich. Fiber helps to promote regularity for a healthy well maintained digestive tract.

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A variety of potatoes. Source: wikipedia.com

Apples – Apples are another food that will most likely be present at your holiday dinner. Whether it be apple pie, applesauce, or an apple cobbler, I’d bet apples will be making some sort of an appearance. Even though you might be eating them alongside some unhealthy additives, the positive side to apple containing foods is that you will be getting a healthy dose of nutrition simultaneously. Apples are another one of those Vitamin C loaded foods, so rest assured you will be meeting your Vitamin C quota on Thanksgiving day. Apples are also high in other antioxidants which provide you with a wide range of health benefits. The antioxidants found in apples have been scientifically proven to improve lung function, reduce the risk of cancer, and lower the risk of stroke. The skin of an apple, similar to the skin of a potato, is also a high fiber food.

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An apple dessert. Source: ecohabits.net

Pumpkin – What Thanksgiving meal would be complete without pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread? Pumpkins are also surprisingly advantageous for your health! According to the National Institutes of Health, one cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A. This vitamin helps to sharpen your eyesight and makes it easier for you to see in the dark. Carotenoids, which gives the pumpkin its orange color, are also thought to help keep your skin looking young and wrinkle free. Pumpkins are also another one of those high Vitamin C, high antioxidant, high mineral foods, which is completely awesome for your body.

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A slice of pumpkin pie. Source: businesswire.com

Green Beans – Green bean casserole is one of my all time favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Green beans also provide the human body with some unexpected health rewards. Green beans contain a pigment known as lutein which is really helpful for your eyes. Lutein shields the human eye from the harmful damage of high intensity light. Green beans also contain another vitamin essential for building a strong body. These vegetables contain ample amounts of Vitamin K. Vitamin K, when combined with the proper intake of calcium, helps to strengthen your bones and skeletal structure. Furthermore, Vitamin K helps your blood to clot properly. Finally, one last health-giving advantage of green beans is that they are a rich source of iron. Iron is responsible for the production of hemoglobin, which helps to carry oxygen throughout your body via the bloodstream.

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Cooked green beans. Source: simplyrecipes.com

Chocolate – Ultimately, how could any Thanksgiving dinner end without a delicious dessert? And what dessert would be complete without chocolate? Chocolate is made from the seed of the cacao tree, and in its pure unadulterated form could even be considered a superfood. Cacao is loaded with antioxidants, and is regarded by some experts to be one of the most antioxidant rich foods in the world. The main ingredient in chocolate has also been found to contain high amounts of other vitamins and trace minerals essential to your wellbeing including iron, copper, and manganese. Since chocolate also tends to be one of the most favored treats in the world, it has been the subject of numerous scientific studies and research. These studies have shown evidence that chocolate can help to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Other research has provided proof that cacao has the ability to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by raising levels of good cholesterol in the body and lowering the levels of the bad cholesterol. Essentially the main ingredient in chocolate, cacao, enables a wide range of health improvements within the human body. The caveat is that this ingredient is often combined with sugar, milk, and other less than beneficial ingredients to create the commercially produced chocolate many of us consume. The darker the chocolate you end up eating with your Thanksgiving dessert, the more health benefits you will be reaping.

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Dark chocolate. Source: townetworks.com

Whatever ends up being served to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, enjoy the flavorful foods and the time spent with family. For those of us (like me) who are obsessed with the health benefits the can be gained from food, there is a conclusive silver lining to this food-centric holiday. No matter what you treat yourself to on this day, your body is sure to gain some much needed nourishment through vitamins, minerals, and nutrients even in the most unexpected of foods.