During this time of year the talk at the dinner table is so entertaining that we remain seated for hours, dishing up more extraordinary conversations and your third “taste” of pie as the wine evaporates. But which holiday foods have the most nutritional benefits? I’ll highlight some of your favorite holiday foods so you have something to bring to the table this Thursday.
History of Thanksgiving 1.0
The important stuff was taught in elementary school, but in case your memory needs a boost: the pilgrims had a bit of a rocky start (battling crop failure and disease) following their arrival to Plymouth in December 1620. With help from Native Americans, the crop the following year was one to be celebrated. The three day celebration featured boiled pumpkins, berries, dried fruits, seafood (fish, lobster, clam), corn and venison. Fast forward 2.5 centuries. Today, you can thank the gentleman on the US penny for proclaiming Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863 (for those of you only familiar with plastic, that would be Abraham Lincoln).
Enough with the history lesson, let’s get to the next course on tastier stuff!
Traditional Foods Today
Sweet Potato (with marshmallows) Casserole
Did the Pilgrims have a successful crop of jet-puffed marshmallows in 1621? Nice try. How did these little sugar clouds end up dancing with our sweet potatoes today? I have no idea. Hate to break the news, but the marshmallow package lies - these little bullets contain no derivative of the marshmallow plant. Plant? Yes – it does exist, and was first used in confections in France in the early 19th century by sweetening and then whipping the sap of the root. It was labor intensive, so manufactures figured out a way to make it easy – adding gelatin and corn starch (solution to everyone’s problem – right?). Nutritional value? Zero.
Let’s instead focus on the antioxidant packed potatoes tucked beneath this sugary fluff. But did you know: sweet potatoes aren’t actually potatoes! They are members of the morning glory family. There are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes – big picture is that they contain carotenes (vitamin A), vitamin C, manganese, copper, fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. Vitamin A is fat soluble, so eating it with a little healthy fat (as in organic olive oil) helps absorption. So go ahead and enjoy this dish that has snuck into the traditional lineup, just dig deep for the nutrient rich stuff on the bottom!
Post-turkey naptime! Pardon the honesty, but it might be all the wine, plummeting blood sugar levels, fatty foods, and the 3rd serving you knew you shouldn’t go for, but yes, there is a little (as in close-to-no) chip of chemistry behind this claim. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan – the precursor for serotonin. Serotonin induces sleep. Being the foodie detective that I am, using a reputable software program I found the following: