You may not realize it, but some traditional holiday foods offer major health benefits.
Holiday meals are all about tradition, and some of the most customary foods served during Easter and Passover slyly pack a pretty significant health punch. Here are five reasons to feel a little virtuous this season:
Eggs get a bad wrap they truly don't deserve. Yes the yolk is where all the cholesterol is, but dozens of studies confirm that saturated and trans fats are the true heart disease triggers, not cholesterol — eggs are low in saturated fat and are trans fat free. In addition to high quality protein the yolk is also where the vitamin D (linked to a number of health benefits including weight control) and choline are found. Adequate choline is tied to brain health, muscle control, memory and reduced inflammation — a known trigger of aging and disease — and heart health.
Spuds have earned a reputation as nothing more than a fattening waste of calories, but they're actually one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to providing fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and B vitamins, when cooked then cooled, taters are also loaded with resistant starch, a unique kind of carb that’s been shown to naturally up your body’s fat-burning furnace. Like fiber, you can’t digest or absorb resistant starch and when it reaches your large intestine, it gets fermented, which triggers your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrate.
This condiment with kick opens up the sinuses to support breathing. It’s also been shown to boost immunity, and rev up metabolism. Pretty big benefits for a whole lot of flavor and a zero calorie price tag.
Many people dismiss parsley as nothing more than a decorative garnish, but it’s actually a nutritional powerhouse. This Mediterranean herb is rich in immune supporting vitamins A and C and loaded with potent anti-aging, cancer fighting substances. In animal research one of parsley's volatile oils halted the growth of lung tumors and was shown to neutralize cancer-causing substances like those found in cigarette smoke.
Red wine has come to be thought of as a health food these days, but don’t discount white. A recent Spanish study looked at the effects of each type (6.8 ounces a day) over a 4 week period in a small group of nonsmoking women and both varieties upped “good” HDL cholesterol levels and lowered inflammation, two keys to keeping your heart strong and healthy.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.