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Enjoy Thanksgiving Meals, They Can Be Good for You
Reuters Health ^ | Fri Nov 19, 2:44 PM ET | Charnicia E. Huggins

Posted on 11/21/2004 7:48:50 AM PST by BenLurkin

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Here's another reason to give thanks this holiday season: the succulent turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes included in many Thanksgiving day meals may not only look and taste good, but may also be good for you.

"Turkey meat is easy on the heart... (and) so are other mainstays of traditional Thanksgiving feasts," according to this month's issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

In comparison to other meats, turkey -- white meat in particular -- is a better source of protein, is lower in total fat and saturated fat and has fewer calories. A three-ounce serving, for example, contains 133 calories, 25 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of total fat and slightly less than one gram of saturated fat. White turkey meat even has fewer calories and fat than chicken.

A similarly-sized portion of dark turkey meat, at 159 calories and 6.1 grams of total fat is slightly less nutritious, but is still a better choice than a three-ounce serving of lean prime rib, according to nutrition experts. That meat has 217 calories, 13 grams of total fat and 23 grams of protein.

Turkey is also a good source of the amino acid arginine. The body needs arginine to produce nitric oxide, a compound that helps dilate blood vessels. It is not known, however, whether eating foods rich in arginine helps keep arteries open.

In addition to this main course, other healthy foods are also often present during Thanksgiving.

Cranberries are known to contain various types of antioxidants, including quercetin. Studies show that this antioxidant not only fights cell damage but may also protect against cardiovascular disease. Of course, homemade cranberry sauce is best. "If you make your own cranberry sauce from whole berries, you'll get a tastier and less sugary sauce than you can get out of a can," according to the health letter.

How about the sweet potato and pumpkin? Both are packed with a variety of nutrients, especially vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and potassium. Sweet potatoes also contain fiber, and pumpkin is low in fat and calories, the letter indicates.

Pecans are also often included in the holiday celebration. These tree nuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Such fats are believed to help lower levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease, and may also prevent blood clots. Pecans, like many other nuts, are also good sources of fiber and vitamin E.

By the time most of these items reach the holiday table, however, they are often less nutritious than their pre-cooked form.

"They tend to lose their virtue by the company they keep," such as brown sugar, marshmallows, butter and cream, the nutrition experts write.

For example, "pecans have healthy components," Dr. Thomas H. Lee, a cardiologist and editor of the Harvard Heart Letter told Reuters Health. The downside is "pecan pie is incredibly fattening and there's no sugarcoating that," he said.

Still, Lee added, "one huge unhealthy meal every now and then isn't going to kill anyone."

The key is to not make a habit of eating unhealthily. Lee advises against third or fourth helpings of food, even at Thanksgiving. "More than the actual components of the meal, I would encourage my patients not to overeat in general," he said.

Caitlin Hosmer, a nutritionist and manager of the Nutrition Consult Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts agreed. "Portion control is always an important thing," she told Reuters Health. Thanksgiving is just one day, but people get into trouble by continuing to eat that way for a month, said Hosmer, who is also a member of the Harvard Health Letter's editorial board.

"Enjoy the Thanksgiving meal, (but) don't make it go on forever," she said.

SOURCE: Harvard Heart Letter, November


1 posted on 11/21/2004 7:48:50 AM PST by BenLurkin
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To: BenLurkin

For me, the two best things about a Turkey Dinner are the aroma while it's cooking, and the cold turkey sandwich later on.


2 posted on 11/21/2004 8:11:43 AM PST by EggsAckley
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To: EggsAckley

A portion at 3 ounces..thats enough for perhaps a 4th of a sandwich : )

3 posted on 11/21/2004 8:55:08 AM PST by alisasny (We get 4 more years, you get OBAMA...: ))
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To: alisasny

I know. Sometimes I think they WANT us to starve, then they can whine about "starving Americans."


4 posted on 11/21/2004 8:59:58 AM PST by EggsAckley
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To: BenLurkin

3 oz serving? That's just enough to make you angry.

5 posted on 11/21/2004 9:09:28 AM PST by kenth (Please don't make me have to put a sarcasm tag... it ruins perfectly good sarcasm.)
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To: EggsAckley
Turkey, dressing(with a little gravy) and cranberry sauce all stuffed inside a leftover dinner roll...

*happy sigh*

Absolutely the best thing about Thanksgiving eats.

6 posted on 11/21/2004 9:12:46 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (I shall follow your advise to the letter...the day I replace my brain with a cauliflower.)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear

Yep. That's eggsackley the way I like it too.


7 posted on 11/21/2004 9:15:00 AM PST by EggsAckley (...............stop unnecessary excerpting.................)
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