Growing up, Waldorf salad, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie all appeared annually on our Christmas dinner table. Ingredients in these dishes like apples, raisins, walnuts, cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are brimming with phytonutrients. These plant compounds bestow an array of health benefits so the foods that contain them are as good for you as they taste! Let’s take a closer look at each of these holiday phyto-foods.
Pumpkin and sweet potato deliver healthy doses of beta-carotene, a plant source of vitamin A that protects against cancer and heart disease and enhances memory and the immune system. They also provide potassium, a mineral important for controlling blood pressure, and choline, a nutrient that plays a role in improving heart and brain health as well as preventing birth defects.
Quercetin, the phytonutrient in apples, can reduce the risk of colon and lung cancer. Apples are also an excellent source of pectin, a fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol.
Raisins contain oleanolic acid. Research shows this phytonutrient inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth that can cause cavities and gum disease. Raisins also have the prebiotic, inulin, which promotes a healthy heart and digestive system.
As one of the top food sources of the phytonutrient melatonin, walnuts also boost brain health. In addition, they are a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects body cells from free radical damage to lower risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Finally, cranberries contribute anthocyanins, phytonutrients that can help prevent bladder infections, and pectin, a cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber.
You can find these phyto-friendly foods in your traditional favorite holiday recipes. Or try these recipes to bring flavor and fun to your holiday meals.