Thanksgiving is just around the corner. A time to sit around with loved ones, family and friends, and give thanks. All while helping to fight the common cold!? Here are ten foods that will help you and your family have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, and feel healthy all season long.
If you’re anything like my family, cranberry sauce is a key staple for our Thanksgiving Day meal. But did you know that it is actually really good for you, too? Cranberries are a healthful food, due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. They are often referred to as a “super food.” The nutrients in cranberries have been linked to a lower risk of urinary tract infections, prevention of certain types of cancers, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure. Cranberries also contain the B vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6. They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin E.
Another ‘super food’ is known to be pomegranate seeds. If you haven’t had these tiny little treats before, they are so delicious (my 2 and 4 year olds both love them). They burst a yummy, sweet tangy juice in your mouth when you bite on them. They are another good source of vitamin C, stimulate probiotic bacteria and contain antioxidants to help fight off many diseases related to cardiovascular health and even some cancers.
Sweet potatoes are another excellent source of vitamin C. While most people know that vitamin C is important to help ward off cold and flu viruses, few people are aware that this crucial vitamin plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. It helps heal wounds, produces collagen which helps maintain skin’s youthful elasticity, and is essential to helping us cope with stress. It even appears to help protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin D, which is critical for immune system and overall health at this time of year. Both a vitamin and a hormone, vitamin D is primarily made in our bodies as a result of getting adequate sunlight. You may have heard about seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, as it is also called), which is linked to inadequate sunlight and therefore a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in our energy levels, moods, and helps build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and supports the thyroid gland.
Sweet potatoes also contain iron and support a healthy immune system. Most people are aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
After reading this, you may want to think about substituting your white mashed potatoes and gravy for mashed sweet potatoes this year.
Carrots not only help you see better, as we’ve always been told, but much like sweet potatoes, carrots are rich in beta-carotene. When we eat these foods, our bodies convert this organic compound into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system.
Vitamin A is especially important for areas that go haywire when we catch a cold: It keeps the mucous membranes that line our nose and throat—one of the body’s first lines of defense—healthy and functioning properly.
Try serving cooked carrots as a side dish this year. Add cranberries for an extra immune-boost.
We all know what happens when you eat asparagus… or rather we can all smell what happens when you eat asparagus! LOL. But this bright-green veggie is also packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Thanks to all these nutrients, asparagus offers some serious health perks.
Asparagus—purple asparagus in particular—is full of anthocyanins, which give fruits and veggies their red, blue, and purple hues and have antioxidant effects that could help your body fight damaging free radicals. When preparing asparagus, try not to either overcook or undercook it. Although cooking the veggie helps activate its cancer-fighting potential, letting it boil or sauté for too long can negate some nutritional benefits.
Asparagus is also a good source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant. This vitamin helps strengthen your immune system and protects cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. To fill up on its benefits, roast asparagus with a little olive oil as our body absorbs vitamin E better if it’s eaten alongside some fat.
Green beans have well-known immune system-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants are beneficial compounds in our body that seek out dangerous free radicals and eliminate them from our system before they can cause illness or tissue damage.
Green beans are also a good source of flavonoids and carotenoids, which have been shown to reduce the severity of strokes.
Fennel is a natural expectorant, and can help clear chest congestion and soothe a persistent cough. Try using fennel in your soup dish on Thanksgiving day.
Lean proteins, such as turkey breast with the skin removed, are high on the list of flu fighters. We need protein to build muscle but also to build antibodies and fight infection in the body.
Lean meats like chicken and turkey are good sources of protein, but if you follow a more plant-based diet, you can also get plenty of protein from meatless sources such as beans and nuts.
The darker the greens, the higher the nutrient content. So when you’re preparing your Thanksgiving menu, try gearing up your defenses for cold and flu season and choose arugula and kale over iceberg lettuce for the salad.
Bitter greens like arugula may even help relieve chest congestion, sniffles, and coughs.
When it comes to mushrooms, there are many choices: White button, Portobello, shiitake, and Maitake are just a few of the varieties you’ll find in your grocery store. Fortunately, just about all mushrooms contain some form of immune-boosting antioxidants, along with potassium, B vitamins, and fiber.
So as you’re starting to prepare your Thanksgiving Day menu, refer back to our blog and include some healthy & nutritious ingredients, which will also help keep your immune systems strong as we head full force into cold & cough season!