<a title='By User:Nino Barbieri [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons' href='http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:-_Pumpkins_-.jpgBy User:Nino Barbieri [<a href="www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5">CC-BY-SA-2.5</a>], <a href='http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:-_Pumpkins_-.jpg'>from Wikimedia Commons</a>‘>- Pumpkins -By User: Nino Barbieri [CC-BY-SA-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons

I come from a family of chefs; I love to cook and during Thanksgiving I am happiest in the kitchen. I can be in a kitchen for hours on end amongst knifes, produce, herbs and sauces in the midst of creation. It usually takes me the whole day to create a meal my family can consume in fifteen minutes flat. But since I cook, they end up doing the dishes so it works out!

For the past several years, I’ve focused on really healthy meals and have become much more interested in the nutritional impact of food. The average Thanksgiving dinner has a whopping 3500 calories; it would take about 7 hours of moderate biking to burn off the whole meal. I skip the sweeter version of sweet potatoes. I serve baked rosemary sweet potato fries; I’ve also tried ginger and lime infused butternut squash soup, cabbage steamed with apples and tomatoes, polenta with herbs and a trio of mushrooms instead of stuffing and pumpkin pudding instead of the pie. For the past several years, I have also brined my turkey and then used the leftovers to make turkey stock and turkey soup.

Most of my favorite recipes have come from a medical focused cookbook called SuperFoods RX by Dr. Stephen J. Pratt & Kathy Matthews. This book outlines the health benefits of fourteen powerhouse foods that aid in health and longevity in life. Four prominent Thanksgiving food items make the list:

Turkey – Turkey is in itself is a lean source of protein, but it also packs nutrients like Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12. Eating turkey is good for your heart and also lowers the risk for cancer.

Pumpkin – This fruit is part of the gourd family (the same family that incorporates melons) and is very high in fiber and low in calories. It has a great deal of nutrients like potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. It also has high concentrations of digestable carotenoids specifically alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Carotenoids are linked to decreasing the risk of many cancers and women who have the highest dietary concentrations of cartenoids also have the lowest risk of breast cancer. These nutrients also lower the risk of heart disease as well as the risk for cataracts.

Sweet Potatoes – The sweet potato is a sidekick to pumpkin and has many of the same nutrients and health benefits.

Cranberries
– Cranberries are a sidekick and cousins to Blueberries; both Cranberries and Blueberries are native to North America. These small berries have very high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been shown to aid in body cells communicating efficiently even aiding aging brain cells from further degeneration, preventing cellular level mutations, and fighting the onslaught of cancer cells.

Many of my recipes and health insights have come from this book. I have a very dog-eared and tattered copy of it on my kitchen shelf. To find more about these superfoods and the rest of the list go to the Superfoods RX website.

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A Superfoods-laden Thanksgiving 2 October,2015Cat

Author

Cat

Cathleen (Cat) is the former Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and worked in the public programs division.
Before working at the Academy, Cat got her start as an intern at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for four years and worked with animals ranging from snakes and hawks to foxes and bobcats. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world and native California wildlife.

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