As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and you look at all the delicious food, some of those dishes might be good for your oral and vision health. Here are some Thanksgiving sides that have the added bonus of being good for your teeth, gums and eyes. And if these vegetables aren’t usually included with your holiday meal, consider adding them for the benefit of all those smiles gathered around your table.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, and this vitamin protects the surface of your eyes and helps maintain your teeth and bones. Sweet potatoes have vitamin C and vitamin E too. Vitamin C, evidence suggests, lowers the risk of cataracts. For your oral health, vitamin C strengthens gums, protects against gingivitis, and fights infection. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation, protects cells in the eyes from damage and can fight against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Two helpings of sweet potatoes, please!
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach
Look around for the greens on the table because you know those are great choices. Brussels sprouts are in season – a good reason for them to show up on the Thanksgiving table! Like other leafy green vegetables, brussels sprouts are full of calcium. Calcium is famous for strengthening your bones and teeth, while it also strengthens your enamel. Vitamin C, good for your gums, is also in brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.
Vitamin C supports vision health in many ways like slowing the progression of AMD and supporting blood vessels in the eye. Broccoli and spinach are an excellent source of vitamin A too. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with the green veggies – so good for your overall health.
Carrots and celery
While you’re all waiting for the turkey to cook, put out some snacks like raw carrots and celery. Because they’re so crunchy, they increase saliva production and reduce the risk of cavities. Also, carrots have vitamin A and other nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, both known to promote eye health.
Celery is a good source of vitamins A and C. Added bonus of celery – it works as a natural toothbrush! When you bite down on celery, its texture scrubs the surface of your teeth, brushing away food particles and plaque. So keep these snacks around for after dinner too.
Let me add one more because it’s one of my Thanksgiving favorites! Butternut squash is in season and is filled with nutrients, like powerful vitamin A. One cup of cooked butternut squash has over 300% of the recommended daily allowance. On the long list of its nutrients is vitamin C, another vitamin for oral and vision health we’ve been discussing.
While some of these vegetables might get covered up in some unhealthy choices like gravy and butter, consider having different versions available. Baked sweet potatoes instead of mashed with butter and cream. Steamed spinach and broccoli instead of in a casserole.
And if you’re still into the pumpkin craze, and a pumpkin pie might be included in your traditional fare, pumpkin also has oral and vision health benefits. Keep in mind your ingredients and read the labels on the store-bought items.