Happy Healthy Holidays!

December 14, 2010

Pecan pie and cranberry relish, sautéed artichoke hearts and glorious mashed potatoes, oh, who needs meat this holiday season?

Pecan pie and cranberry relish, sautéed artichoke hearts and glorious mashed potatoes, oh, who needs meat this holiday season?

You'll be delighted to learn that all the above dishes plus many others are nutritional powerhouses with very high amounts of health-giving antioxidants: those disease-fighting elements that help us deflect a whole slew of diseases like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) that lead to strokes and heart attacks. Here are our top choices:
Granny Smith Apples are tart, crisp, and juicy, great alone following a meal or made into a pie. Slices of refrigerator-cold Granny Smith or Gala apples served with some hazelnuts or walnuts and a cup of hot chocolate make a great dessert jammed with antioxidants. One apple has 581 antioxidant capacity.

Cranberries are five times more powerful a source of antioxidants than broccoli, and several times more than most vegetables. So drink up with a cranberry juice punch or cocktail, add your favorite cranberry relish, salads or chutney, or consider the refreshing, palate cleansing taste of a cranberry sorbet. A whole cup of cranberries has a very healthful 8983 antioxidant capacity, only topped by blueberries (13,427) and red or kidney beans (13,727). Cranberries also have the highest phenol content of the most popular fruits, too, so consider eating and drinking juice from this stupendous fruit all year round.

Artichokes, steamed, brined, or baked are both perfect for side dishes or for a change of pace on the appetizer banquet. They're very low in calories, available jarred, canned or raw, and a whole cup of the tastiest part, the hearts, clock in at 7904, just under the cranberry's antioxidant level.

Pecans mean pie to most people during the holidays, but they also make a delicious addition to salad, bean dishes or seasoned and toasted as appetizers. A mere ounce contains 5095 total antioxidant capacity. Other top nuts for antioxidants are walnuts and hazelnuts, so you have several to experiment with your holiday dishes.

Cooked tomatoes actually show an increase in antioxidant activity than raw tomatoes so bring 'em on as a side dish this year. Halve them, sprinkle with olive oil, crushed garlic and crushed oregano; broil until soft. Goes fabulously with your favorite mashed potatoes. And, one cooked russet potato equals 4659 antioxidant capacity so a good half cup of mashed, with chicken broth instead of cream, and a good dollop of garlic will satisfy you antioxidant requirements and your taste buds.

Other ideas to elevate the antioxidant level include compotes of steamed dried fruits, particularly prunes, with a good dash of clove have bountiful levels of antioxidants and don't forget everyone's favorite antioxidant source, dark chocolate. Make hot chocolate with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Both clove and cinnamon are "musts" in the spice cabinet for amping up the antioxidants while perking up the recipes. (Oregano is the number three top spice.)

If you're not one for turkey or ham on during the holidays, consider a big pot full of your favorite chili recipe with beans and plenty of cooked tomatoes. No matter what variety, the antioxidant content of beans is the highest among fruits, vegetables or legumes. Consider these totals per ½ cup of dried beans: black beans (4181), to pinto (11,864) to red kidney beans (13,259). All cup measurements are for dried beans. Beans also have loads of fiber, good amounts of protein, and they're low in fat.