This time of year it seems like temptation is waiting around every corner. There are homemade cookies in the office break room, tables full of party snacks, and enough home-cooked meals to fill a sleigh. But amid the sugary sweets and treats, the holiday season also brings back a few festive favorites that boast some pretty impressive health benefits. So the next time you’re tempted, reach for one of these good-for-you alternatives.
The Almighty Almond: When it comes to healthy nuts, almonds are at the top of the heap. Last month the New England Journal of Medicine published new research that praised the health benefits of almonds, saying these humble nuts can actually help us lead longer, healthier lives. As tree nuts go, almonds boast the most protein and fiber, and they are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin E and riboflavin (vitamin B2). In studies, almonds have also been shown to support heart health and weight management.
An Apple a Day: First, apples are loaded with fiber, which we all know can help keep those cravings to a minimum when the cookies start rolling in. Fiber supports balanced blood sugar levels and has been linked to healthy weight management—not to mention heart health and better digestion. Apples are also rich in the nutrient quercetin, which has antioxidant benefits to help support your immune system and even promote eye health!
Did Someone Say Cranberries? Sure, they look nice on the tree, but this tiny superfood is also a great addition to your holiday plate. Cranberries are low in calories and loaded with vitamin C and fiber—not to mention they have more immune-supporting antioxidants than nearly any other fruit or vegetable. Cranberries have also been shown to promote urinary tract health as well as a healthy yeast balance in women. (Just remember to steer clear of the high-sugar juices and sauces, as too much sugar can counteract the natural urinary health benefits of cranberries.)
Pass around the Power Greens: According to experts, greens are the #1 food you can eat regularly to support optimal health—and kale is definitely a top performer. Loaded with calcium, folate, potassium, and vitamins A, C and K, kale is considered the powerhouse of leafy greens, and did we mention it comes in yummy chips?? (Take that, potato chips.) Other super green contenders are spinach, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and red and green leaf romaine.
Squash, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots, Oh My! When you think about antioxidants, it’s not just all about the berries. Holiday favorites such as pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, sweet potatoes and carrots are all high in beneficial carotenoids—powerful antioxidants shown to support immunity and optimal health.
Of course, these are just a few of the healthy foods you may see at the holiday table, but making the choice to eat healthy all year long will help you enjoy the gift of better health. Whenever you reach for a snack or prepare a meal, remember to opt for plenty of high-fiber fruits and veggies, healthy fats, legumes, nuts, and lean meats and protein. Experts also recommended at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week—yes, even during the busy holiday season!