Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner: Many Thanksgiving foods are good for you, says Harvard Heart Letter

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's a good time to evaluate if the big meal traditional to this day can be healthy. We tend to think of this holiday dinner with a guilty smile; however, several traditional foods are essentially healthy. The November issue of the Harvard Heart Letter looks at the health benefits of turkey and other mainstays of a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

If you are looking for a lean cut of meat, turkey is hard to beat. A 3-ounce serving of skinless white meat contains 25 grams of fat, and less than 1 gram of saturated fat. Compared to prime rib, turkey has a lot less fat and fewer calories, too. However, dark meat has more saturated fat than white meat, and eating the skin adds a hefty serving of bad fats. Turkey is also a good source of arginine—an amino acid the body uses to make new protein and nitric oxide, the substance that relaxes and opens arteries.

As for other mainstays, cranberries should be eaten more often because they are packed with dozens of different antioxidants. If you make your own cranberry sauce from whole berries, you'll get a tastier and less sugary sauce than from out of the can. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Pumpkin (before it is made into a pie) is low in fat and calories and is loaded with potassium and other important vitamins. Pecans are great sources for heart-healthy fats.

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