Holiday treats offer healthy benefits

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:59 PM | by mitch

By Garrett Serd, M.S., RD, ACSM-CPT

While it’s common to see savory foods like turkey and green bean casserole ruling the roost on Thanksgiving, come Christmas, it’s all about the sweets! And believe it or not, despite the bad rep that some popular Christmas eats get for being laden with calories and sugar, there are actually quite a few that carry a bit of cancer-fighting potential.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s my top 5:

  1.  Hot Cocoa – When it comes to picking a healthy holiday drink, look no further than hot cocoa.  Studies show that hot cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine and tea1.  An even healthier way enjoy this popular wintry drink is to use skim or almond milk in place of whole milk.
  1. Pumpkin Pie – Not quite sure what type of pie to whip up for Christmas day yet?  Try a sweet potato or pumpkin pie. Why?  These pies are rich in alpha- and beta-carotene – two carotenoids that are converted to vitamin A in the body.  Vitamin A acts as a free-radical scavenging antioxidant that also promotes healthy vision.
  1. Coffee – A 2010 study2 published in the Journal of Cancer and Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed a 39 percent lower risk of oral and throat cancer among people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily.  So go head and pour yourself another cup of joe – just don’t go overboard.
  1. Herbs – Did you know that just one tablespoon of fresh oregano contains the same cancer-fighting antioxidant activity as one medium-sized apple?  That’s huge! Furthermore, herbs such as dill, thyme, rosemary and peppermint also have significant cancer-fighting activity.  Click here for 5 healthy recipes that use oregano.
  1. Honey –baked ham – While ham may not be the healthiest type of meat to consume, its honey coating does possess some health benefit.  The antioxidants in honey, which are found in comparable amount in fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas, have been shown to help protect against heart disease.  Nonetheless, too much ham can be unhealthy no matter its honey content.  So like all your favorite Christmas foods, moderation is key.

Relax a little this holiday season and realize that the extra calories you may be consuming may also be giving you an extra boost to fight off cancer, heart disease and many other of today’s common ailments.

Happy Holidays!

1 American Chemical Society. “Hot Cocoa Tops Red Wine And Tea In Antioxidants; May Be Healthier Choice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2003. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031106051159.htm

2Galeone C, Tavani A, Pelucchi C, et al.  Coffee and tea intake and risk of health and neck cancer:  pooled analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium.  Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010;19(7):1723-1736.