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Feast on This!

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Turkey and all the trimmings serve up delicious health benefits

The leaves are changing, and the weather is crisp and cool—all signs that Thanksgiving is around the corner! Some of us are already considering conserving our calories in anticipation of the big meal. We try not to overindulge, but the fat and calories can add up. The good news is there are actually several health benefits in this holiday feast. So we can enjoy Thanksgiving (somewhat) guilt-free!

Bring on the turkey. Turkey is a lean, low-fat protein. Along with providing fewer calories than other meats, turkey also supplies many nutrients as well. Turkey is an excellent source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and potassium. Three medium slices of turkey contain 160 calories, 6 grams of fat (1.7 grams saturated) and 25 grams of protein. Good reasons to indulge in this nutrient-dense, low-fat main course!

How sweet it is! Low in calories and fat, sweet potatoes are packed with fiber and vitamins A and C. These vitamins have powerful antioxidant properties that neutralize free radicals associated with cancer and heart disease. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for arthritis and asthma, as well as certain skin diseases.

Please pass the cranberries. You can just look at the beautiful rich color of cranberries and know that they are loaded with nutrients. Cranberries provide an array of phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties (powerful disease fighters) to protect against disease as well as promote a healthy urinary tract. They contain a specific phytochemical called anthocyanin, which has been shown to reduce memory loss. They also contain vitamin C, which has healing properties and protects against infection.

Save (a little) room for pumpkin pie. Who would have thought there would be health benefits in pumpkin pie? As it turns out, pumpkin (a vegetable from the squash family) can be very good for your complexion! The most plentiful nutrients found in pumpkins are antioxidants and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A). Beta carotene is essential for growth and the repair of cells, including skin cells. It also offers natural protection from the sun’s UV rays. Pumpkin also contains potassium, necessary for muscle and heart function. Be sure to limit your serving of pie to a small slice, or your calories can quickly add up. And save the seeds too. They are high in amino acids and zinc. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthful snack on their own or they can be added to salad and pasta dishes.

It is important to keep in mind that while these foods do provide a lot of health benefits, when combined with sauces, gravies and cheese, they can easily turn into a caloric nightmare! It’s safer to stick to the basics and save the splurge for your absolute favorite dish. Remember, make it worth it!