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Nourishing Thanksgiving Traditions

Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce

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from Fine Cooking #119, pp. 30-31

Chances are, eating healthfully is about the furthest thing from your mind at Thanksgiving. It is, after all, the start of a season that turns our attention toward celebrating and indulging. It’s a chance to enjoy holiday dishes that connect us with our past and the loved ones around us, and of course, to simply eat for the pure pleasure of it. But you might be surprised to know that while you’re doing all that delicious celebrating, you’re also getting a powerful nutritional boost. A closer look at the key ingredients of the traditional Thanksgiving table reveals some remarkable health benefits.

Featured recipe:

Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce
Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce

Turkey The star of the feast does more than make a glorious presentation and feed an extended family. It’s a nutritional prize too-just a 3-ounce serving provides nearly half a day’s worth of lean protein and is packed with minerals like selenium and zinc, which are key for a strong immune system. It could be just what we need to help us through the cold and flu season.

Sweet potatoes These hearty, sweet, and fragrant spuds get their deep orange color from the antioxidant beta-carotene. This form of vitamin A helps protect every cell in our bodies, but especially targets the skin, eyes, and immune system. On top of that, sweet potatoes have more potassium than a banana, so they help keep blood pressure in check, and they’re a good source of vitamin C and fiber. All in all, a pretty sweet package.

Squash Beta-carotene is the orangehued star of the squash family, too, and its disease-preventing properties extend across all varieties, from pumpkin to hubbard. Eating it could also make you more attractive by imparting a warm hue to your skin. Research from the University of Bristol, in England, found that people given a diet high in betacarotene were found to have more attractive skin tones than those who were suntanned. So enjoy squash throughout the holiday season; it might help keep that winter pallor from setting in.

Brussels sprouts It’s probably not news that Brussels sprouts are healthy, but this holiday staple offers more healing power than you may realize. Not only do they provide a sizable dose of essential nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium, and betacarotene, but they also contain powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Luckily, they contribute all this goodness even if you choose to cook them with bacon.

Nuts Besides providing a sumptuous crunch and nutty flavor, holiday favorites like almonds, walnuts, and pecans have heart-healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, essential minerals like magnesium and zinc, and plenty of antioxidants.

Cranberries These tart little wonders have antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which act like Teflon, preventing bacteria from sticking to our cells and causing disease. Scientists think this anti-stick benefit is the main reason cranberries prevent urinary tract infections and could also work to protect the stomach and gums.

In the Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce recipe, cranberries are simmered with orange juice and maple syrup to make a healthful, tasty cranberry sauce that’s sure to become a holiday favorite. Serve it as part of your holiday meal and enjoy the nutritional benefits cranberries have to offer. The only thing that can enhance the effect further, for pleasure and health, is to slow down and savor every bite.

Photo: Scott Phillips


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