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December 2011
Feel Good about Feasting!

Surprise: dessert and a cocktail can be good for you!

Though the holidays are typically thought of as a time for decadence, a number of common holiday foods have surprising health benefits. This year, include chocolate, cinnamon, red wine, cranberries and sweet potatoes in your holiday feast -your body will thank you!

•    Chocolate

Dark chocolate and unprocessed cocoa contain antioxidants that may reduce inflammation, fight free radicals and promote heart health. Flavonoids in chocolate called flavanols provide a host of health benefits as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research indicates that flavanols have other positive influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart, making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, and lowering cholesterol.”

•    Cinnamon

The cinnamon in your dessert may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and one study found that it may even slow the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cells. It also regulates blood sugar, making it a great for those with diabetes. In fact, Maria Collazo-Clavell, M.D. says that “One study published in 2009 found that cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved hemoglobin A1C levels — a reflection of average blood sugar level for the past two to three months — in people with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes (hemoglobin A1C levels greater than 7 percent)” on mayoclinic.com.

•    Red wine

Red wine contains melatonin, which promotes healthy sleeping patterns, and resveratrol, which may reduce the risk of breast, lung and prostate cancers. Along with saponins in red wine, resveratrol can also help to lower LDL cholesterol. And according to Lindsay Brown, associate professor in the School of Biomedical sciences at The University of Queensland, resveratrol can aid in “cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity,” among other health benefits (sciencedaily.com). Just be sure to stop at one or two glasses; imbibing

•    Cranberries

Cranberries contain antioxidants that can reduce cancer and heart disease risk and strengthen the immune system. These festive red berries also contain copper, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. The tannins in cranberries may also help with urinary tract infections by keeping bacteria from sticking to urinary tract and bladder walls.

•    Sweet potatoes

This holiday staple is actually a superfood containing beta carotene, vitamin C and other antioxidants. Sweet potatoes can also help you to feel full longer (and prevent a holiday binge) since they may help to regulate blood sugar levels and are chock-full of fiber. Just be sure to eat them with the skin on.
This holiday season, there’s no need to deprive yourself of your favorite holiday fare in order to stay healthy. By enjoying the right holiday foods in moderation, you can treat your senses and nourish your body at the same time.
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