We often fixate on the amount of weight we’re going to gain
by indulging in yummy Thanksgiving foods, but did you know that some
traditional holiday eats can actually benefit your body both inside and out?
Antioxidant-rich Thanksgiving fare like sweet potatoes, cranberries and even
the spices we closely associate with the holiday are high in antioxidants,
which help stave off cell damage throughout the body, and protect the skin as
Sweet potatoes: That bright orange color is the first sign
that sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants—which is why doctors suggest
eating a diet full of different colored foods. The orange hue is due to high
levels of beta
carotene (a vitamin A derivative from the same family as anti-aging
retinoids) but there’s also plenty of collagen-boosting vitamin C along with
vitamin B6, which has been shown to decrease risk of heart attack and stroke.
Cranberries: We all know that fruits like blueberries are
“superfoods,” and cranberries are no exception. Shown to contain more
antioxidant phenols than 19 other commonly eaten fruits, these yummy little
wonders may help prevent heart disease and certain cancers. Another study by
the USDA found that cranberries are in the top five (out of over 1,100 foods) in
terms of antioxidant levels thanks to high concentrations of anthocyanins,
ellagic acid, quercetin, resveratrol, selenium and vitamins A, C and E.
Cinnamon: You may be surprised to learn that in addition to
its delicious flavor, cinnamon is one of the strongest antioxidant spices,
which could be why this bark has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient
Egyptian times. When compared to other free-radical-fighting powerhouses, one teaspoon
of cinnamon has the same antioxidant strength as one cup of pomegranate juice
or a half-cup of blueberries. Even more, cinnamon is rich is substances called
polyphenols, which may help regulate blood sugar levels (diabetics, take heed!).
Oregano: When you’re prepping the turkey, don’t skimp on the
oregano! It owes its superior antioxidant activity to a high content of natural
free-radical scavengers like phenolic acids and flavonoids. And just as with
other spices, go for the fresh version, and be sure to tuck some inside the
bird in addition to sprinkling it on the outside.
Chocolate: When time for dessert rolls around, you may want
to skip the pie in favor of something chocolaty instead. But all chocolate
isn’t created equal, and you’re better off indulging in dark chocolate (as
opposed to white and milk varieties). The higher the percentage of cacao, the
more antioxidants it has, and dark chocolate has also been proven to lower
blood pressure. In order to reap the benefits of these antioxidants, don’t wash
your chocolate down with milk, as this has been shown to interfere with
Red wine: It’s not a holiday without wine (in my family, at
least), and as it helps you deal with your parents, kids and other relatives,
it can possibly help keep you healthy as well! Red wine is bursting with an
antioxidant called resveratrol
that has been shown to increase levels of “good” cholesterol and protect
arteries from damage. Other resveratrol studies in mice have shown that the
antioxidant may be able to stave off weight gain, so drink up (responsibly, of course).
Just because these Thanksgiving foods are on the menu
doesn’t mean you should eat yourself into a food coma. Antioxidants aren’t
strong enough to offset calorie consumption, and recent studies show that high-glycemic foods may
contribute to acne (and who wants to be bloated and broken out?).