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The Truth About 4 Common Thanksgiving Dinner Myths

Nov 12, 2012
The holiday season is upon us and that means lots of rich foods that can be both healthy and hazardous for our health. But which of the rumors and myths are true and which are just old wives tales. We separate the fact from fiction.

Tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy

Fiction! The thought behind this statement has been that the presence of tryptophan--which is indeed involved in sleep and mood control--in turkey makes all of us sleepy. In actuality, turkey does not contain a significant amount of tryptophan, and when eaten with other foods, the absorption is reduced. 

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Drowsiness during the holidays is likely from any one of the following or a combination: large meals can divert blood flow and oxygenation away from the brain during digestion; foods high in protein or carbohydrates can create sleepiness; and alcohol consumption may also play a role. 

If you're trying to prevent holiday drowsiness, don't over indulge- eat smaller portions, and watch your alcohol intake.

Cranberries have beneficial antioxidant properties

Fact! Antioxidant compounds in cranberries protect against urinary tract infections; reduce/control oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and the digestive tract (including the mouth, stomach, and intestines); and prevent the incidence of cancer.

However, the most commonly consumed form of cranberries is a processed version where most of the skin and flesh are removed and replaced with large amounts of added sugar. In this form, health benefits are significantly reduced. To get all of the antioxidant power from cranberries, eat them as whole berries versus juice, molds, or supplements.

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White potatoes have little nutrition, sweet potatoes are healthier

Fiction and Fact! This one is a little trickier to answer. White potatoes are indeed nutritious, but sweet potatoes pack a more powerful punch. 

White potatoes have earned a bad reputation, especially with those who are trying to lose weight. However, potatoes only become an unhealthy food when fried, or loaded with high fat foods like butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese. When eaten without all of the extra fat, these vegetables are low in calories and provide a variety of antioxidants; good sources of vitamins and minerals; and fiber. Additionally, potatoes provide protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Sweet potatoes provide a great source of beta-carotene which raises blood levels of vitamin A. One cup of sweet potato contains 438 percent of the daily value! Similar to white potatoes, sweet potatoes also contain many protective antioxidants that are responsible for reducing inflammation and possibly helping modify insulin metabolism thereby improving blood sugar regulation-even in those with type-2 diabetes.

There are many varieties of potatoes, all with different health benefits. Try different varieties, and remember eat the skin-that's where a good portion of the fiber and nutrition reside.

Cooking stuffing in a turkey is perfectly safe

Fiction! While you may not always get sick from preparing stuffing this way, you are increasing your (and your family's) risk for food poisoning. For optimum safety and even cooking, cook your stuffing outside of the bird. 

If you do decide to stuff your turkey, keep the wet ingredients (onions, broth, celery, butter) chilled before preparing. Mix all of the ingredients just before filling the turkey. Fill the turkey loosely and cook it immediately after filling it. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe temperature of 165 °F.

Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.



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