It’s that time of year again when most of us will sit down to a turkey dinner—with all the trimmings—surrounded by family and friends. Some traditional Thanksgiving foods are better for you than others, though, so you may want to fill your plate with these.
You and your family may not be eating exactly what the Pilgrims ate during their 1621 fall feast, but chances are there are some similarities. Historians are pretty sure the Pilgrims’ menu included wild fowl and venison. In fact, some believe the first Thanksgiving meal could have had wild turkeys, ducks, geese, swans and maybe even fish as well as some corn and wheat.
It certainly didn’t contain the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, dressing and pumpkin pie often found in our modern day Thanksgiving celebrations. Besides, the Pilgrims didn’t have ovens, so pies, cakes, and bread were not even on the menu.
In short, their Thanksgiving meal was full of meat dishes—which offered great sources of healthy protein and fats and was low in carbs, including sugars. The Pilgrims may have been on to something with those foods, too, because proteins, including meats, are highly nutritious. Here’s why.
Proteins supply energy and provide the structural components necessary for growth and repair of tissue. Proteins are also the basic building material of the body, and the body needs protein and the amino acids from which it is made to build muscles. Unless you get enough protein, your body cannot build new cells and tissue.
Enzymes, antibodies, and hormones are made primarily of protein, too. Protein increases stamina and fuels most of the biochemical activities of the body—including supporting the immune system. Proteins are also the major building blocks for blood, skin, hair, nails and the internal organs, including the heart and the brain.
They’re also needed to control bodily functions such as growth and metabolism rate. Additionally, proteins help with the body’s acid/alkaline balance, assist in regulating the body’s water balance and make up most of the body’s weight— after water.
When you eat protein, the body breaks it down into amino acids so it can be used by the body. There are many kinds of amino acids, but the body can’t make eight of those, so they must be obtained through food. Animal proteins like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products contain all eight of the essential amino acids, making them complete proteins—and that includes your Thanksgiving turkey.
So go ahead and have yourself a hearty helping of that turkey—and other healthy proteins and fats—this Thanksgiving. It’s far better for you than high-carb, high-sugar foods that often make their way to your table during this season.