Holiday Foods Packed With Nutrition – Part I

While many foods on the Christmas buffet and at holiday parties are laden with fats, sugar and empty calories, there are a number of foods that are both delicious and nutritious.

Even a couple of weeks of eating too many rich, sweet, processed and low-nutrient foods can lead to not only weight gain, but also health problems such as digestive distress, inflammation, lowered immunity, and increased blood sugar.

But you can enjoy Christmas and New Year's celebrations while still benefiting from good nutrition. Look for items that include these ingredients, or use them in dishes that you prepare and share their nutritional bounty.

Cranberries – A traditional holiday favorite, cranberries provide vitamin C, manganese and fiber, plus healthy phytochemicals called anthocyanins. They also contain compounds that appear to help prevent urinary tract infections as well as possible effects against the ulcer-causing h pylori bacteria and colon cancer. Cranberries can be enjoyed whole, in fresh relish, breads, desserts, bars; or dried, sprinkled on salads, in snack mixes and other appetizers.

Green beans – An excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese, green beans are one of the healthiest holiday foods out there. They also contain a good amount of vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. Try them cooked with toasted nuts and herbs instead of cream soups and cheese.

Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a rich source of antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, are an excellent source of potassium, and the skin contains dietary fiber. Instead of adding loads of butter and brown sugar, prepare simple sweet potato "fries" brushed with healthful olive or canola oil and baked.

Avocados – An excellent source of folate and potassium, avocados also contain vitamin E, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber. And although avocados contain fat, it's heart-friendly monounsaturated fat, similar to that found in olive oil, which helps lower blood-cholesterol levels. They also contain beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol that helps to lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and has been shown to decrease cholesterol absorption. Avocados are great in guacamole, sliced into a salad, used as a spread or in place of high-fat mayonnaise.

Pear –Naturally sweet pears are a good source of vitamin B2, C, E, copper, and potassium, and an excellent source of pectin, a water soluble fiber. Recent research also suggests that if you start your meal with a pear, you may end up eating less. So try them roasted as an appetizer, or in a delicious winter salad with avocadoes, pecans and crumbled blue cheese.

These are just some of God's abundant healthful, healing foods to put at the top of your Christmas and New Year's grocery shopping list. Look for more in