The Health Benefits of 4 Favorite Holiday Treats
During the holidays we are often surrounded by family, food and fun. Some of our fondest memories of the holidays revolve around familiar foods and treats. For myself, I always look forward to my Grandma’s special potatoes, sprinkled with paprika. Holiday treats often get a bad rap for being unhealthy and high in calories, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Would you believe some of your favorite holiday treats may have some surprising health benefits? You won’t have to think twice when enjoying these delightful disease-fighting foods!
• Hot Cocoa: Did you know this warm, chocolaty treat can help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease? Cocoa is rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps with inflammation and protection of cells. Research shows it may help with blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Make your own disease fighting cup at home with skim milk and dark chocolate cocoa.
• Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Those creamy spuds may help to improve blood pressure and decrease the risk of colon and rectal cancers. Garlic produces a chemical called allicin, which gives garlic its lovely odor and health benefits. Who knew that garlic smell was helping to prevent certain cancers?
• Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin itself is a nutrient-dense food. Pumpkin boasts the benefits of vitamin A and fiber. Vitamin A helps with vision, bone growth and keeping your immune system healthy. Fiber can help keep your bowels regular and improve cholesterol levels. Indulge mindfully. Pumpkin pie often has added sugar, so skimp on the crust and you’ll save some calories.
• Wine: Polyphenols are antioxidants present in red wine that studies show improve heart health. Specifically, resveratrol may reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent damage to blood cells. Please drink safely. The American Heart Association recommends if you drink, limit to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
This holiday season, remember all the wonderful things food can do for us. Remember to practice moderation and balance when enjoying these tasty treats. Wishing you a wonderful and healthful holiday season!
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Originally Published: December 2016. Revised: August 2022.
Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. She is the diabetes education program coordinator at CHI Health and sees patients at the Millard Clinic. She works with patients to identify root causes to health conditions and make changes to improve overall health. Ellen’s passion is to help others develop lifestyle habits that allow them to feel their best.