Thanksgiving Feast Boasts Some Healthy Foods

Turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and pecans all nutritious on their own

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THURSDAY, Nov. 25, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- You don't necessarily have to feel guilty after you've gobbled down your Thanksgiving feast.

Some of the food on your plate is essentially healthy, says an article in the November issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Turkey can be one of the leanest meats. For example, a 3-ounce serving of skinless white turkey meat has 25 grams of fat and less than a gram of saturated fat. Turkey is also a good source of an amino acid called arginine, which your body uses to make new protein and nitric oxide, the substance that relaxes and opens arteries.

But not all turkey is equal. Dark meat has more saturated fat than white meat. You should also avoid the skin, which is loaded with unhealthy fats.

Cranberries are another healthy Thanksgiving food. They're packed with dozens of different antioxidants. It's best if you can make your own cranberry sauce from whole cranberries. It will be tastier and contain less sugar than canned cranberry sauce.

You're also likely to have sweet potatoes, which are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, beta carotene and vitamins A and C.

Even your dessert can offer health benefits. Pumpkin is low in fat and calories (well, that's before it's made into a pie) and is a good source of potassium and other vitamins. And pecans are a good source of heart-healthy fats.

While many of these traditional Thanksgiving foods are healthy on their own, they lose that health advantage when they're mixed with cream, sugar, butter and eggs, the article noted.

More information

The Harvard School of Public Health offers advice about healthy eating.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Publications, news release, November 2004

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