Healthy Holiday Staples
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Healthy Holiday Staples

Boost the nutrition in your holiday dinners.

Like chocolate, nuts are the new health stars. In fact, a study of 86,000 women found that eating an ounce of nuts five times a week lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes by 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Still not convinced? Another recent study found that a diet low in saturated fat that included almonds lowered cholesterol nearly as effectively as the same but nut-free diet combined with cholesterol-lowering drugs. Indeed, the FDA recently approved a qualified health claim stating that eating an ounce and a half of nuts, such as peanuts, walnuts, or almonds, as part of a diet that's low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Cranberry Sauce

These berries are high in antioxidant plant compounds called anthocyanins, and in proanthocyanidins, which make them nature's remedy for urinary tract infections. Research shows that proanthocyanidins prevent bacteria from sticking to and proliferating in the urinary tract. And the tasty berries may also protect against the bacteria that cause gum disease and stomach ulcers. As if those aren't enough health benefits, cranberries also contain compounds known as triterpenoid esters that appear to inhibit tumor cell growth in lab studies. Go for the whole-berry sauce rather than the jellied stuff, and you'll get some fiber, too.

Root Vegetables

An autumn vegetable medley can be a nutritional powerhouse. Toss in turnips, which contain cancer-fighting glucosinolates similar to those found in broccoli. Fennel will give you a healthy helping of cancer-fighting beta-carotene. And don't forget the parsnips, which, aside from beta-carotene, also deliver vitamin B1 and niacin. If you're going to roast your veggies, brush them with heart-healthy olive oil rather than butter.