Make Sure These Vegetables Show Up for Thanksgiving

Next week, millions of Americans will sit down to stuff themselves with Thanksgiving food...

In fact, at Thanksgiving dinner, folks can easily consume more than 3,000 calories in just one meal.

That's about as much as an adult should consume in one day. The range is between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day, depending on a person's health goals and activity levels...

I'm using the term "should" very loosely here. I don't often harp on calories because they aren't inherently bad for you. They're a measure of energy.

So it's the not the calories that you need to worry about... it's the color.

A typical Thanksgiving meal is made mostly of foods that are brown.

Longtime readers know I like to encourage folks to eat a rainbow of nutritious, healthy foods every day. While I don't think there's anything wrong with a day of indulgence, there are plenty of delicious ways to incorporate more nutrition into your Thanksgiving spread.

Today, I'm highlighting three autumn vegetables that are ranked as highly nutritious, according to a 2015 study published by the Public Library of Science journal, PLOS ONE. In this study, a group of researchers analyzed the nutritional profiles of over 1,000 raw foods...

Then, they ranked how well each food satisfied a person's daily nutritional requirements – when combined with other foods – without going over the amounts needed. According to this study, the higher the "nutritional fitness" score, the better it is at meeting your nutritional needs.

The following three vegetables are all densely nutritious and low in calories... so you don't have to think twice about reaching for seconds. And they'll help balance out some of the less-nutritious, higher-calorie mainstays on your plate, like stuffing and gravy.

These are three of my top choices of vegetables to add some color to your Thanksgiving this year...

No. 1: Pumpkins

Pumpkins aren't just for carving or putting into pies...

The bright, orange color of pumpkins indicates that they're full of an antioxidant called beta carotene. In the body, beta carotene converts into vitamin A, which is essential for our vision, eye health, skin, immune system, and mucous membranes.

Pumpkins also contain a number of nutrients that are known to support and protect the health of your heart, including vitamins B1, B6, B9 (folate), and C... as well as potassium, copper, fiber, and magnesium.

At just 22 calories per 100 grams (just under half of a cup when boiled, drained, and mashed), pumpkins earned a nutritional fitness score of 50, so it does an excellent job of meeting your daily nutritional needs.

Here's a short video that will walk you through a simple pumpkin soup recipe.

Bonus Tip: You can roast and serve up the pumpkin seeds too, which are even more nutritious – packing 574 healthy calories per 100 grams (a little over three fourths of a cup) and earning a nutritional fitness score of 84.

No. 2: Carrots

Like pumpkins, orange carrots contain loads of beta carotene. Carrots also grow in shades of purple, red, and yellow... offering a variety of other helpful antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, lycopene, and xanthophylls, respectively.

Anthocyanins are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. Lycopene is associated with the reduced risk of heart disease and cancers. And xanthophylls protect against plaque buildup in the arteries.

White carrots are considered the least healthy because they don't contain pigment-related antioxidants like the other varieties...

But they still have many of the other nutritious properties that all carrots contain, like fiber, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin C. These nutrients help support healthy blood sugar levels, low blood pressure, good digestion.

At 36 calories per 100 grams (about half a cup, cooked), carrots have a nutritional fitness score of 51 so they also do a very good job of meeting your nutritional needs.

Here's a short video with an easy recipe for garlic roasted carrots.

No. 3: Green Peas

Most folks consider green peas a vegetable, but they technically belong to the legume family (we'll call them a vegetable for the sake of this article). This is why – unlike many other vegetables – green peas are a great source of protein.

In addition to protein, they also have a lot of fiber. Protein and fiber will fill you up and help you feel full for a longer period of time. Fiber supports the health of your digestive system. It also slows down the absorption speed of carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in your gut, stabilizing your blood sugar levels.

Peas are also high in antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and potassium. These nutrients can help protect you from things like inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.

Green peas contain 84 calories per 100 grams (about half a cup, cooked), and have a nutritional fitness score of 67, so again, it does a great job of meeting your daily nutritional needs.

Here's a video for a quick and delicious green pea recipe.

Pumpkins, carrots, and green peas are no strangers to Thanksgiving. Make sure they make it to the table this year so you can enjoy your meal and feel good about it, too.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 14, 2023