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Thanksgiving Superfoods That Are Actually Healthy

Cranberries

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Skip the gravy and go for antioxidant-packed cranberry sauce on your turkey! Cranberries are packed with over 150 phytochemicals. These festive berries may lower inflammation and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. More good news for the holiday season: Cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth, lowering the risk of cavities so you can smile through January and beyond.

How to Enjoy Them

Think beyond the traditional cranberry sauce and add these ruby gems to your stuffing for a burst of color and tartness. They make beautiful additions to your holiday cocktails—and for making delicious cranberry raspberry infused water. You can also use up any leftover cranberry sauce in yogurt parfaits and as a secret ingredient in whole-grain muffins. (See: 11 Cranberry Recipes to Keep You Warm This Fall)

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Turkey

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Turkey can be a lean protein source or a high-fat one. If you're watching your weight, choose white turkey meat over the dark meat and don't eat the skin. A 3-ounce serving (the size of your palm) of dark, skinless turkey has 16 percent more calories and 55 percent more fat than white, skinless turkey. (See: How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey)

Your holiday turkey is an excellent source of protein, iron, and vitamin B12. Protein maintains and builds muscle, helps keep you satisfied longer, and burns more calories during digestion than fat or carbohydrates. Turkey contains all of the B vitamins, which are used to convert the food you eat into energy. In particular, a serving of turkey contains 80 precent vitamin B3 (niacin) most people need in a day. Niacin is needed for important chemical reactions in the body and for healthy skin and nerve function.

How to Enjoy It

If you're cooking for a smaller crowd, why not get some turkey breasts and roast them? That way you won't have to fight over the white meat. Make sure there are enough leftovers for turkey sandwiches and delicious reinventions such as turkey tacos, curry, and whole-grain salads.

Related: 5 Worst Ingredients to Use in Your Turkey Recipes

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Squash

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Whether it's pumpkin, acorn, or butternut squash, winter squash are excellent sources of alpha- and beta-carotene. These antioxidants support your immune system and promote bone and eye health.

If you need even more reasons to love your squash, it may boost heart health by lowering cholesterol—and thanks to its potassium content, it may help lower blood pressure. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in squash also help protect your blood vessels and healthy cells.

How to Enjoy It

A little bit of butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all it takes to cook roasted squash. Cube leftovers and use them in hearty lunch bowls, purée for soups, and use them to add moisture to your baked goods. Looking for more? Try these vegan and gluten-free squash recipes.

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Chestnuts

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You can roast them on an open fire or in your oven for a delicious snack or to add to holiday recipes. While chestnuts are classified as nuts by name, that's where the similarities end. Chestnuts are half water and are low in fat with only 50 calories per ounce (1 ounce = about 3 to 5 nuts). Compare this to other nuts that have 3 to 4 times the calories!

Chestnuts are rich in filling fiber and are a good source of vitamin C, which may help boost your immune system during cold and flu season.

How to Enjoy Them

Use chestnuts as a juicy, meaty surprise ingredient in your stuffing or to add sponginess to your cakes, as filling in your crêpes, and to add rich flavor to soups.

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Sweet Potatoes

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The brilliant orange color of sweet potatoes is similar to that of squash—and that's a hint that they're rich in the same antioxidants. Indeed, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage from the environment and aging. Just half a medium sweet potato provides all of the vitamin A you need in a day for a strong immune system and healthy eyes.

Don't be afraid to roast your sweet potatoes with some heart-healthy olive oil. Having at least 3 to 5 grams of fat per serving (about 1 teaspoon of oil) significantly increases your body's absorption of beta-carotene. (Check out these 10 Healthy Sweet Potato Recipes)

How to Enjoy Them

No need to candy your sweet potatoes—they're sweet enough! All it takes is some roasting with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and it tastes like the holidays in every bite. Use leftover sweet potatoes to make latkes or a delicious sweet potato and egg breakfast skillet.

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