Surprising Health Benefits in Those Delicious Holiday Foods

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It’s hard to think of the holiday season and not think of all the delicious holiday food – the mouthwatering treats – both sweet and savory – that accompany all the celebrations. You’ve probably heard it all before when it comes to indulgent holiday foods — “so high in calories!” … “so fattening!” … “really ‘bad’ for you!”  But what if we spoke about the health benefits of some popular holiday foods? They exist, but often times culture and expectations get in the way.

Many of us celebrate the holidays with unique foods that have been passed down for generations. What’s more important is what they may represent to you and your family, like togetherness during the holidays.

Below are some favorite holiday foods and the nutrients they contain to better support health. Remember to eat in moderation when enjoying your favorite holiday foods!


Mashed potatoes are quite possibly the world’s most perfect and versatile side dish. Before potatoes got such a tarnished reputation (thanks, diet culture), they were often thought of as a nutrient-dense food. And they still are! Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, an important mineral and electrolyte that helps nerves and muscles (including the heart!) function properly and may help regulate blood pressure. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. To reap all the benefits of the fiber in potatoes, like better digestion and satiety, make sure to cook (and mash!) them with the skin.


Aside from all of the creamy goodness, green bean casserole does have some health benefits, thanks to its key ingredient: green beans. Green beans are a good source of fiber, as well as vitamins C and A, and the mineral manganese. Green beans also contain soluble fiber, which may help keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. What’s more, the fat in the cream of mushroom soup used in traditional green bean casserole can help the body absorb vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin.


People call cranberries a superfood for good reason: They have all kinds of health-boosting benefits. They’re high in antioxidants. A study found that out of 20 common fruits, cranberries have the highest level of phenols, a type of antioxidant. They’re also high in anthocyanins. These are the compounds that give cranberries their dark red color.


Turkey is the centerpiece of many holiday meals, but it’s not the only main dish tradition. Rib roast is also a popular choice. Rib roast is certainly not lacking in nutrients, as it is a great source of complete protein, which your body can easily absorb and utilize. Rib roast is also a good source of vitamin B12 and an excellent source of iron. Rib roast is, of course, higher in saturated fat as red meats so you want to eat this on occasions and not every day.


It’s true candied yams can be quite high in sugar but find a recipe that you like and try making them yourself instead of buying the store-bought version. Yams are nutrient-dense tuber vegetables that come in many colors. Like white potatoes, yams are an excellent source of potassium. They’re a great source of fiber, vitamin C, B6, A, manganese, copper, and antioxidants. Yams are linked to various health benefits and may boost brain health, reduce inflammation, and improve blood sugar control. If you’re making them yourself, halving the sugar won’t affect the taste too much and it allows the natural sweetness of the yams to shine! They’re versatile, easy to prepare, and a great vegetable to include in your diet in both sweet and savory dishes. Adding different seasonings to your yam dishes, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, or thyme, can diversify sweet and savory dishes.


Pecan pie is a rich and decadent holiday dessert, and it tends to be on the higher end when it comes to sugar. However, part of the reason pecan pie is also higher in calories is that pecans are an excellent source of healthy, monounsaturated fats. This is yet another reason to not think so much about calories, but nutrients, and what foods can do for your body (and soul!). Aside from heart-healthy fats, pecans themselves pack a ton of vitamins and minerals, like zinc, thiamine, copper and magnesium. Pecans are also a good source of blood sugar-stabilizing fiber.