Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Nothing Murky About Eating Turkey

November 25, 2015

We eat lots of turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Americans gobble up 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving. That works out to almost 3 pounds of poultry per person who partakes in the feast, according to statistics from the National Turkey Federation. I’ve always wondered why turkeys are the bird of choice for our annual Thanksgiving dinner, and seeing as one of our most important national holidays will be celebrated tomorrow, I thought I’d satisfy my curiosity. I also discovered, to my surprise, that there are some terrific health benefits offered by a Thanksgiving turkey.

In case you are wondering about the history of Turkey on Thanksgiving, It’s actually debatable whether Turkey was served or not during the First Thanksgiving of 1621, because colonist Edward Winslow’s account of the harvest feast at Plymouth simply mentions that pilgrims gathered “wild fowl”, which means they were just as likely to have feasted on ducks or geese as turkeys.

More than 200 years passed before turkey gained traction as the staple Thanksgiving meal. It was the rediscovery in 1856 of colonist William Bradford’s lost journal that marked the beginning of turkey becoming the Thanksgiving meal of choice. In his journal, Bradford made references to wild turkey being hunted in the fall of 1621.

This was further enshrined in American culture when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. So there you have it! That’s how we all came to eat turkeys with our families every fourth Thursday of November.

The good news is that although we may eat a little too much each Thanksgiving, eating turkey has numerous health benefits.

Here are just a few reasons to eat turkey tomorrow:

1. Keep Insulin Levels Stable

Turkey meat helps with stabilizing blood sugar levels because it is rich in protein. Protein also takes a relatively long time to digest, and this means that glucose absorption also slows down. That’s why some doctors recommend turkey as a good dietary choice for diabetics.

2. Strengthen Your Immune System

A recent study has shown that tryptophan metabolites contained in turkey are effective in reducing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. This means there’s tangible evidence for tryptophan’s important role in immune system health.


3. Boost Your Defense Against Cancer

Just as tryptophan helps the immune system fight off autoimmune diseases, it also stimulates T cell production. These cells are your immune system’s natural weapon for fighting off cancer. Furthermore, a trace element in the body called selenium has also been observed to kill cancer cells in various studies. While selenium takes on many different forms, the three main forms with anticarcinogenic properties are sodium selenite, L-selenomethionine, and selenium-methyl L-selenocysteine.

4. Take in Less Saturated Fat Than Other Meats

The form of cholesterol which isn’t good for your body is called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. Consuming too much saturated fat triggers increased LDL production in the liver. It collects in your blood vessels when consumed in excess, leaving you at greater risk of heart disease. Turkey contains significantly less saturated fat in comparison to beef or pork.

5. Boost Your Metabolism

Turkey is a lean, complete protein ideal for building muscle and increasing metabolic function. Having a high metabolism is good for hair and nail growth and avoiding illness.

6. Enhance Your Mood

Eating turkey on a regular basis will have a positive effect on your mood, because tryptophan increases serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.  It is also the tryptophan that causes a tired feeling after consuming turkey.

7. Lose Weight

Lean protein, as found in turkey meat, contains important amino acids and helps you feel fuller for longer. Replacing other meats you eat with turkey will likely see you shedding a few pounds sooner rather than later.

8. Boost Your Energy

B vitamins are excellent for producing long-lasting energy, and turkey contains an extensive amount of them. Niacin is particularly good for converting carbohydrates, proteins and fats into efficient fuel for your body.

Bottom Line:  Turkey has been a staple of the holiday season.  Hope you enjoy your special day and stop and give a moment to be thankful for all the blessings we as Americans enjoy this and every day of the yeasr.

Put Pumpkin On Your Holiday Table-Your Prostate Will Thank You

October 25, 2015
From The Daryl and Luellen Berger Halloween Display

From The Daryl and Luellen Berger Halloween Display

It’s holiday season and time to carve a pumpkin for Halloween and have pumpkin pie for Christmas.  If the only thing you have ever done with pumpkin is carve it and fill it with a candle, you are not alone. Many people tend to think of pumpkins as little more than just a holiday decoration or a pie filling, but you may want to rethink this plump orange plant.  It has wonderful medicinal value that you might want to know before carving that pumpkin and discarding the seeds the pulp from this veritable medicine chest of good nutrition.

Pumpkin is an extremely nutrient dense food, meaning it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals but low on calories. There are many creative ways pumpkin can be incorporated into your diet, including desserts, soups, salads, preserves and even as a substitute for butter. Next time pumpkin season comes around, don’t carve it, cook it up and eat it!

Consuming one cup of cooked, canned pumpkin would provide well over 100% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 20% of the daily value for vitamin C, 10% or more for vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese at least 5% for thiamin, B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Of course, using fresh pumpkin and preparing it yourself will give you the most health benefits, so steer clear of canned pumpkin pie mix, as canned pumpkin has added sugars, syrups, etc. For the best nutritional value pumpkin should have only one ingredient: pumpkin.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pumpkin decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

Pumpkin is one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known to give orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color and which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease, and delay aging and body degeneration.

Blood pressure: Eating pumpkin is good for the heart! The fiber, potassium and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health. Consuming adequate potassium is almost as important as decreasing sodium intake for treatment of hypertension (high-blood pressure). Other foods that are high in potassium include cantaloupe, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, spinach and bananas.

Increased potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.

Cancer: One particular type of cancer where research has shown a positive benefits of a diet rich in beta-carotene is prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition.5 Beta-carotene has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.

Eye Health: The antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene (all of which pumpkin has) have been shown to support eye health and prevent degenerative damage.

A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Fertility: For women of child-bearing age, consuming more iron from plant sources such as spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets appear to promote fertility, according Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications. The vitamin A in pumpkin (consumed as beta-carotene then converted to vitamin A in the body) is also essential during pregnancy and lactation for hormone synthesis.

Immunity: Plant foods like pumpkins that are high in both vitamin C and beta-carotene offer an immunity boost from their powerful combination of nutrients.

A nice sedative:  Why does everyone take a nap after a heavy Thanksgiving meal?  It is the tryptophan in the pumpkin which raises melatonin and induces sleep.

Bottom Line:  Pumpkin is good for you and good for your prostate, too.  Enjoy the holiday.

Living With Chronic Illness During the Holiday Season

November 24, 2011

Holiday time is a time of enjoyment, family get togethers, and lots of good food. But for some people, especially those with chronic illnesses, holiday season is time of anxiety, tension, and even depression. For those who have a chronic medical problem, holiday time can even be more stressful. This blog was written by TONI BERNHARD who is a lawyer and author from southern California. 

In the U.S., we’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. Soon, people around the world will turn their attention to the holiday season. Chronic health problems can take a toll on relationships any time of the year. Most people have to experience unrelenting pain or illness themselves before they understand how debilitating it is, physically and mentally. Loved-ones (by whom I mean family and close friends) may be in some form of denial about what’s happened to you, or they may be scared and worried about the future. Bottom line, suffering from a chronic condition can be an ongoing crisis—for you and for those you’re close to.

That crisis can come to a head during the holidays when people’s expectations of one another are high and when stress levels for everyone are likely to be off the charts for any number of reasons—health, financial, relationship issues. If you’re like me, during the rest of the year, you carefully limit interactions with others in order to manage your symptoms; on a typical day, your most complex decision may be to choose between showering and shopping! But when the holidays arrive, you’re suddenly thrust into the middle of a lively and chaotic social scene where you’re expected to participate in a range of activities, often for days in a row. A bit of advance warning to loved-ones can go a long way toward minimizing stress levels over unrealistic expectations.
I know that this piece won’t apply to everyone. One of the heartbreaking consequences of living with chronic pain and illness is that some people are unable to be with loved-ones at all during the holidays, either because people are too disabled by their pain or illness to be able to gather with others, or because family and close friends having drifted out of their lives. I know the pain of that isolation; I’ll be writing about it in my next piece.
For those of you who are able to gather with others, the holidays can be a recipe for double disaster—the increase in activity exacerbates your physical symptoms, while coping with sadness, frustration, and maybe even guilt about your physical limitations gives rise to emotional pain. No wonder many people with health problems dread the approaching holidays.
If you’re one of the many people with chronic health problems who don’t look sick, the initiative is with you to make your condition visible. Here are some suggestions for helping loved-ones understand what your life is like and for giving them a heads-up on what to expect from you during the holidays.
Share information with them from the Internet or from books
Often the best way to educate loved-ones about chronic pain and illness is to use a neutral source because it takes the emotional impact out of the communication. A quick web search will yield a host of organizations devoted to every conceivable medical problem. Print out select pages or forward a few links to family and close friends. Alternatively, if you have a book about your condition, photocopy the pages that cover what you’d like them to know about you. In your accompanying note, keep it “light”—you could joke that “there won’t be a test.” But also make it clear that this favor you’re asking is important to you.
Write a letter
Many years ago, two friends of mine were in couples therapy. They weren’t able to speak to each other about their marital problems without one of them shutting down emotionally and the other reacting by shouting recriminations. Their therapist told them to write letters to each other expressing their feelings and their concerns about the marriage. It turned out to be a major first step in healing their relationship.
If you decide to write a letter, be sure it’s not accusatory. In composing it, use the word “I” more than the word “you.” Without complaining, express how difficult it’s been for you to adjust to this unexpected change in your life and how you wish you could be as active as you once were during the holidays.
You could briefly describe what your day-to-day life is like, including how unpredictable your condition is which means that you can’t know for sure how you’ll feel on the day of the actual gathering no matter how much you rest in advance. (This is the hardest concept for most loved-ones to comprehend—that we can spend weeks before a big event in full “rest mode,” but still feel very sick when the day arrives.)
I would end by telling them what to expect from you during the holidays—that you may have to skip some events, that you may have to excuse yourself right after eating to go lie down, that you may have to come late and leave early. In my experience, spelling out my limitations ahead of time is helpful not just to others, but to me, because I find it much easier to exercise the self-discipline it takes to excuse myself from a room full of people if I know that at least some of them are already expecting it.
P.S. It will be tempting to send an email, and if you have a lot of people you want to communicate with, it may be the most feasible way to reach everyone. But one thing’s for sure: people will read a handwritten letter, antiquated document that it’s become!
Find that ONE ally and enlist his or her help
If you have just one close friend or family member who understands what you’re going through, enlist his or her help in explaining your condition and your limitations. Before the holidays start, you could ask your ally to talk to loved-ones on your behalf or to be present when you talk to them. Ask your ally to be supportive if you have to excuse yourself in the middle of a gathering, or even to let you know if you’re wilting (as we call it in my household). It’s so helpful for me to be “prompted” by my ally because, when I start to overdo things, adrenaline kicks in which fools me into thinking I’m doing fine. But using adrenaline to get by just sets me up for a bad crash later on.
Your ally may be a close friend or family member who’s just waiting for you to enlist his or her help. Think long and hard before you decide there’s no such person in your life.
In the end, you may have to recognize that some loved-ones may never accept your limitations
Some family and close friends may refuse to accept that you’re disabled by pain or illness. I know this from personal experience and it hurts. Try to recognize that this inability is about them, not you. Don’t let their doubt make you doubt yourself. Your medical condition may trigger their own fears about illness and mortality, or they may be so caught up in problems in their own lives that they’re not able to see their way clear to empathize with you.
Just as you can’t force people to love you, you can’t force people to accept you. But getting angry at them just exacerbates your own symptoms. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself from allowing their lack of understanding to continually upset you. Think of it as protecting yourself from another chronic condition: chronic anger.
The physical suffering that accompanies chronic pain and illness is hard enough to endure without adding emotional suffering to it. When I feel let down family or close friends, the first thing I do is acknowledge how much it hurts. Then I reflect on the many possible reasons for their behavior. Finally, I work on genuinely wishing them well. These three steps immediately lessen my emotional suffering.
As you experiment with these suggestions, treat yourself kindly. Don’t blame yourself if one of them doesn’t work out. Instead, give yourself credit for having had the courage to try! My heartfelt wish is that your loved-ones come to understand and accept your limitations, but that if they don’t, you’ll be able to accept them as they are without bitterness.

Bottom Line: The holiday season can be a tremendous source of anxiethy for those who have a chronic medical problem. Try a few of these ideas and suggestions and you, your family, and friends can put the celebration back into the holiday season.

Toni Bernhard is the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers,” winner of the 2011 Gold Nautilus Book Award in Self-Help/Psychology and named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.
She can be found online at