Thanksgiving Dinner: Including Foods to Fight Cancer

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Growing up in the Midwest, we pretty much had the same traditional meal each Thanksgiving. Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, homemade egg noodles (to top the potatoes – from our German roots), candied yams, cranberry salad and yeast rolls.

I experienced my first traditional Southern Thanksgiving with a friend’s family over 10 years ago. The spread on the buffet was unrecognizable – fried turkey, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato soufflé, squash casserole and cornbread stuffing.

Where was I? And what was I eating? When I asked my friend where my mashed potatoes with noodles were, he looked at me like I had two heads.

No matter what your traditional Thanksgiving menu is, why not consider adding in some cancer fighting foods this year?

I know what you’re thinking…

Adding foods to fight cancer is ridiculous. Don’t mess with perfection. The pilgrims didn’t care about fighting cancer at Thanksgiving, so why should we?

Well, what if I told you many of these foods are already a part of the Thanksgiving feast? You can boost the cancer fighting power of Thanksgiving simply by eating more of some foods, and less of others! Are you in?

  • Cranberries – Their dark red color tells you they are naturally high in anthocyanins – phytochemicals that help protect against and fight cancer. If you normally buy the jar of jellied cranberry sauce at the store, replace it with a homemade cranberry chutney made from fresh or frozen cranberries. And dried cranberries make a great addition to stuffing!
  • Greens – Whether you eat turnip greens, collards or any other green leafy veggie (spinach, arugula, kale, etc), greens provide fiber, folate and carotenoids to help in the fight against cancer.
  • Sweet potatoes – Packed full of beta-carotene and vitamin C, sweet potatoes are full of cancer fighting nutrition – just be sure to limit the marshmallows, brown sugar and butter! Looking for a healthier version of sweet potato casserole? Try buying Red Garnet sweet potatoes (a naturally sweeter variety requiring less sugar – try Whole Foods if you can’t find them at your local grocery), limit the butter, and replace brown sugar and cream with pure maple syrup and low-fat milk.
  • Pumpkin – Even in the pie form, pumpkin, like sweet potatoes, is an excellent source of vitamin A (an antioxidant that helps fight cancer). Just one slice of pumpkin pie provides 12,431 IU’s of vitamin A. (That’s more than twice the recommended daily intake!)
  • Walnuts – Add walnuts to your stuffing or mashed sweet potatoes for texture and cancer fighting nutrition. Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) rather than monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) found in most other nuts. Walnuts are the only nut containing ALA—a plant based form of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that diets rich in walnuts may help lower total cholesterol and may reduce inflammation, which may be a risk factor for many chronic illnesses, including cancer.

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