Holiday Foods Packed With Nutrition – Part II

Rounding out a list of ten delicious, nutritious ingredients to look for or include at your Christmas party and New Year's celebrations are familiar standards, and possibly a few you hadn't considered.

In Holiday Foods Packed With Nutrition – Part I we featured five holiday food suggestions (cranberries, avocados, green beans, pears, and sweet potatoes), along with suggestions on ways to prepare them that enhance, rather than reduce their nutritional value. Here are five more:

Pomegranates – The pulp of the pomegranate is bursting with vitamin C and more potassium than a medium-size orange. Pomegranates are also rich in anthocyanins and ellagic acid, both powerful plant chemicals that may help fight heart disease and cancer. Drink the juice on its own, or use as a glaze on poultry, in jams, jellies, sorbets and chutney, or as topping on a baked apple. You can also sprinkle the seeds sprinkle into a fruit or vegetable salad.

 White Beans – Beans such as garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) are fiber all-stars. They are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which can lower cholesterol and prevent blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. Garbanzos are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, as well as potassium, folate and magnesium, and when combined with whole grains such as rice, garbanzos provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. For a quick, tasty hummus, just combine pre-cooked garbanzos in the blender with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and/or onion, salt and pepper to taste.

Sweet Red Peppers – Among the most nutrient-rich vegetables around, each red pepper contais more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, as well as generous amounts of beta-carotene. They're also an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help lower the risk of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults. Red peppers are very versatile vegetables; enjoy them raw in salads or on a crudite tray, make them into a dip, add them to poultry stuffing or roast them for an antipasto platter.

Leeks – Leeks are a good source of fiber, folic acid, vitamins B6 and C, manganese, iron and quercitin. And, like their close relatives, onions and garlic, they provide similar health benefits, such as improving the immune system, lowering bad cholesterol levels, fighting cancer, and reducing the severity of symptoms related to arthritis, asthma and the flu. But with a sweeter and milder flavor than onions or garlic, leeks can be added to recipes such as broths, soups, salads, without overpowering the other flavors. Leeks are at their best in fall and winter, so enjoy them now!

Cauliflower – Cauliflower provides fiber, folate, and vitamin B6, and it's an excellent source of vitamin C. As part of the cruciferous family, cauliflower is loaded with disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals, and contains a compound called sulforaphane which has anticancer, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial properties. Cauliflower is delicious in soups, can be roasted for antipasto, or pureed for a mashed potato substitute.

Other foods that we have discussed often on this site that would make wonderful additions to your Christmas table include:
• Unsalted nuts – alone or for added flavor in almost any dish
• Yogurt – as a dip for fruits, vegetables or meats
• Greens such as kale, spinach – the foundation of your salads
• Edamame/soybeans – a unique addition to a vegetable tray

Enjoy and share these many delicious, nourishing foods that God has provided from his bounty for a happy, healthy Christmas season.