Gazing at the traditional Thanksgiving table, it quickly becomes clear that many of the most appetizing foods share one thing in common: they’re burnt orange.
And while that means your Turkey Day menu won’t clash with your Longhorn pride, it’s also good news for your health. Burnt orange foods have significant nutritional benefits derived from vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C and thiamine and minerals like iron, copper and potassium. In other words, burnt orange foods pack a good deal of what’s good for you.
The more color to a sweet potato, the more vitamin A it contains. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium.
Tip: To prevent the flesh of the sweet potato turning black, place cut sweet potato in cold water until ready to cook.
An excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of calcium and iron. Iron is a component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, the oxygen carrying proteins in red blood cells and muscles. Iron aids with energy metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis (brain function) and immunity.
Trivia: Pumpkin pie did not become a staple of Thanksgiving dinner in North America until the 19th century.
Excellent source of potassium and vitamin A. Butternut squash also contains vitamin C, folic acid, pantothenic acid and copper. Along with iron, copper helps in the formation of red blood cells. As a component of enzymes, copper — an antioxidant — assists in energy production and in the formation of skin pigment.
Tip: A butternut squash will keep unrefrigerated for about a month.
Carrot cake is a good source of vitamin A and contains calcium.
Trivia: After the sugar beet, the carrot contains more sugar than any other vegetable, making it a perfect dessert ingredient.
Pumpkin (and other winter squash) is an excellent source of potassium and vitamin A and contains vitamin C, folic acid, pantothenic acid and copper.
Trivia: The canned pumpkin pie filling found at grocery stores does not contain the pumpkin typically used for jack o’lanterns. Pie filling contains a different cultivar of winter squash.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A and potassium (when raw). They also contain thiamine, copper and vitamin B6. Thiamine aids in energy metabolism and protein synthesis, maintenance of nerve tissue and production of DNA and RNA.
Trivia: Carrots can also be white, yellow, red, purple and black.
Related story: For healthy Thanksgiving recipes, including pumpkin French toast muffins, visit nutrition senior Claire Siegel‘s blog, The Slender Student.
Collage image credits (Clockwise from upper left): Flickr users Dave Lifson, Liz Davis, Shaina Olmanson/Cascadian Farm, babeinthecitykl, Brendan O’s, Maria Pontikis/Anthimeria.