Mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, green bean casserole and pecan pie — these are just five of the most popular dishes on the American Thanksgiving table, but they are rich in calories and poor in nutrition. However, with some careful planning, the Thanksgiving meal can be both healthy and delicious! Instead of making turkey the focal point of your feast, recall that the Thanksgiving holiday is about celebrating the bountiful fall harvest. Colorful fruits and vegetables can be the theme of your Thanksgiving table, serving to nourish your vision as well as your stomach.
When planning your Thanksgiving meal, use the colors of fall to guide you. Foods that are red, burgundy, violet, deep orange and yellow are full of flavor and packed with eye-nourishing vitamins. Carotenoids, a group of A vitamins that includes beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, help fight against free-radical damage. When you combine carotenoids with other essential vitamins and nutrients, they provide health benefits that are essential for aging eyes.
Remember that fruits and vegetables will lose some of their nutritional potency in the cooking process, so try to eat raw foods whenever possible. You can practice this principle by creating an eye-catching veggie tray with various colors of bell peppers, broccoli, radishes and carrots.
Two of the carotenoids are in popular foods found on the Thanksgiving table: beta-carotene and lutein. And don’t forget the Vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant that promotes eye health.
Beta-carotene —These powerful antioxidants are found in pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash and cantaloupe. For a boost in beta-carotene, look for recipes and dishes that are yellow or orange.
Lutein — Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and collards have lutein, which is important for good macular function. Make a large bowl of mixed green salad for your harvest table and garnish it with eye-healthy dried berries, orange slices and walnuts.
Vitamin C — Citrus, broccoli, leafy greens, cranberries and bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C. One easy way to boost vitamin C intake is to replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower. Just steam a head of cauliflower and blend it in the food processer with some milk, butter, salt and pepper. Cauliflower is also high in omega-3, which is associated with healthy visual development.
Research shows that what you eat makes a significant impact on your visual health, and not just on Thanksgiving. According to the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2), an increased intake of antioxidant vitamins reduced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) risk by about 25 percent and reduced vision loss by 19 percent. Other studies linked higher vitamin C and E intake with a reduced risk for cataracts.
So fill your plate with mashed cauliflower, steamed carrots, sautéed spinach, and homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest. Make your Thanksgiving table a feast for the eyes this year!