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Healthful Treats? You Betcha! Surprising health benefits of favorite seasonal treats

As we head into the season of overindulgence, it’s good to know that some holiday “treats” can actually be nutritiously guilt-free if we eat them in moderation. Read on to find the hidden health benefits of some classic favorites.

Sweet Potatoes: Sure, it’s a no-brainer that sweet potatoes are a source of vitamins, but these super veggies may be even better for you than you think! Your body converts the alpha and beta carotene from sweet potatoes into Vitamin A, helping keep your eyes, bones and immune system in top shape. Choose firm sweet potatoes with tapered ends and a uniform shape and color.

healthful-treatsNuts: Even though nuts are high in calories and fat, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. The fat in nuts is heart-healthy. In fact, research suggests that eating just a handful of nuts a few times a week may lower heart disease risk. Nuts are also a great source of antioxidants, energy and protein. You might consider nuts a Christmas gift to your body!

Cocoa: Who doesn’t love a steaming cup of hot cocoa? Now, we know that its health benefits give us even more reason to love it. For example, cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids that may lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. Dark chocolate with a high percent of cocoa solids may help lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel health, and regulate cholesterol levels. So, give in to your craving – in moderation, of course!

Cranberries: With their rich red color, cranberries add a festive touch to any holiday table. Beautiful cranberries contain only 45 calories per cup while offering a healthy dose of benefits. They’re a good source of vitamin C and fiber, and they outrank nearly every other fruit and vegetable in the amount of disease fighting antioxidants they contain. Buy cranberries fresh in fall and winter and store them in a tightly sealed bag in your refrigerator to keep them fresh longer.

 

References:

 EatingWell. Surprisingly Healthful Seasonal Treats. http://recipes.millionhearts.hhs.gov/articles/surprisingly-healthful-seasonal-treats

 Hendrick, Bill. Cocoa Rich in Health Benefits. WebMD Health News. March 23,2011. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20110323/cocoa-rich-in-health-benefits

 Lerch Davis, Jeanie. Cranberries, Year-round Superfood. Web MD Feature. 9/29/2009. www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cranberries-year-round-superfood.

 Mayo Clinic Staff. Nuts & your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. 9/15/2016. www.mayoclinic.org.

 

 

PG

Author: Ginny Hinton - ghinton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent with UF/IFAS. Focus areas include nutrition, food safety, injury prevention, and healthy families. Bachelor's degree in Social Work from University of West Florida. Master's degree in Public Health/Health Education from University of South Florida.
http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu

Permanent link to this article: http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/2016/11/25/healthful-treats-you-betcha-surprising-health-benefits-of-favorite-seasonal-treats/