Pass The Turkey... But Don't Pass Up On The Cranberries

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How flavonoids in key fruits may counter poor diet, stress and chronic health problems.

By simply replacing some of the simple starches with more fruits and vegetables, the amount of flavonoids skyrocket

With obesity, diabetes and heart disease on the rise, health experts from doctors to dietitians are giving thanks for recent nutritional findings that may unlock the key to combating chronic and degenerative illness. While it's not certain if the Pilgrims feasted on cranberry sauce at their famous meal, it would have proved beneficial if they had, according to a number of important nutritional research studies. Fruits such as cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and grapes, all contain phytonutrients, as well as crucial health-enhancing substances known as flavonoids. These powerful plant pigments help protect the outer skins of certain fruits and vegetables from oxidation, the same damaging process that impairs and destroys human cellular tissue.

USDA scientists at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University have been finding promising results associated with diets high in antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Preliminary studies suggest that diets containing fruit and vegetables with high-ORAC values may provide protection against chronic age-related afflictions like loss of coordination and memory. ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, measures the ability of a substance to subdue oxygen free radicals. Cranberries score high on the antioxidant scale at 1750 ORAC units per 100 g (about 3.5 oz.) of fresh fruit.28 (http://cranberryinstitute.org)

Eating a variety of these colorful phytochemical-rich fruits and vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of some chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, according to http://www.5aday.org. For this reason, The National Cancer Institute now encourages women to eat seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. For men, the number of servings increases to nine. While a typical Thanksgiving meal provides a good number of these fruits and vegetables... i.e. cranberries, yams, and a fruit or tossed salad, it's difficult for most Americans to meet the daily goal. And achieving that number would require cutting back on other foods to keep total calories in check.

The typical holiday meal can range between 2,500 and 4,500 calories, especially when it includes snacking and "seconds". Most of the calories come from the fats and sugars contained in the desserts, potatoes, red meats and gravies. "It's possible to have a really enjoyable Thanksgiving meal that's high in nutritional value and lower in calories," states Ron Slavick, president and founder of Allmera, a nutraceutical research and development company. "By simply replacing some of the simple starches with more fruits and vegetables, the amount of flavonoids skyrocket", Slavick advises. "Another easy alternative is fruit juice or tea in place of soft drinks."

Slavick's company has researched ways to increase the amount of flavonoids and phytonutrients that consumers need in their diets. His company recently released a flavonoid rich supplement known as Proleva which provides the phytonutritional equivalent of six servings of fruits and vegetables a day. (http://Proleva.com) “Recent studies have shown that the total nutritional benefit is not contained in one particular antioxidant vitamin such as A, E, C or one single flavonoid such as lycopene, but the real benefit is found with full-spectrum flavonoid and plant extracts such as the ones used in the Proleva formula.”

Slavick's firm advocates small, progressive dietary changes aimed at including more fresh fruits and vegetables, combined with regular exercise, and dietary supplements. "The goal is to equip your body with what it needs to protect itself, and the body loves the flavonoids and phytonutrients found in dark green leafy vegetables, colorful fruits and green teas. That's been the focus of our research and product development."

So before piling on a mound of potatoes and gravy or sneaking that second piece of pecan pie, consider another helping of cranberry sauce. While you may consider it a small sacrifice for now, your body will thank you in the long run.

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