What Nutritional Benefits Hide in Thanksgiving Food?

By Emily Marks
For Unwind magazine

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Photo by Sam Reilly/For Unwind

The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and suddenly everything is pumpkin spice flavored. That can only mean one thing; fall is finally here. There are two types of people around this time of year: those who are frantically shopping for the perfect Halloween costume, and those busy fantasizing about stuffing both their turkey and their face on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving lovers tend to hold those traditional Thanksgiving dishes sacred. What other holiday is dedicated to sitting down to a meal with at least five different kinds of starches and then smothering it all with gravy?

Although no one is pretending that Thanksgiving is a “healthy” meal (nor should it be), some favorite Thanksgiving dishes have surprising nutritional benefits. So when sitting down at the Thanksgiving table–pants unbuttoned in preparation for the ensuing feast–think about this list and feel a little less guilty.

Turkey
First things first; it’s time to debunk the ‘turkey putting people to sleep’ myth.

According to WebMD, while turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is essential to the immune system and sleep cycle, its levels are no higher than any other meat or poultry.

However, turkey does contain high levels of selenium, which is thought to prevent cancer. Additionally it’s packed with protein. A second helping of this entree will keep the body strong; so will a third, or a fourth, and all the times it will be consumed as leftovers.

Cranberry Sauce
This sweet side dish is bursting with nutritious antioxidants and vitamins, which benefit the eyes, skin, hair and immune system.

However, according to medicalnewstoday.com, cranberries are best known for improving urinary tract health. Many doctors say that eating cranberries on a regular basis can help prevent urinary tract infections, because the highly concentrated antioxidants combat dangerous bacteria.

Mashed Potatoes
It’s impossible not to love homemade mashed potatoes,especially because they contain more potassium than bananas.

According to livescience.com, potatoes also carry tons of fiber, which helps with digestion. Unfortunately, most of the vitamins in potatoes are contained in the skin, which is not included in a typical mashed potato recipe. To benefit from the extra vitamins without sacrificing that whipped potato dish, try twice baked potatoes!

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Photo by Lauren Fuchs

Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie: the classic Thanksgiving dessert that everyone likes or pretends to like. A pie with health benefits is something to be thankful for, and this tasty treat is packed with essential vitamins.

Pumpkins actually contain more carotene than carrots, which is proven to improve eyesight. If that’s not enough, eating pumpkins is also thought to improve heart health.

Gravy and Stuffing
Absolutely nothing good to report here. Gravy is made out of fat drippings, giblets, and flour, while stuffing is made out of white bread and more fat drippings. However, if there is celery in your stuffing, it can give the illusion of a healthy element. But hey, live a little, it’s Thanksgiving!

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