Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving often involves eating a big meal centered around turkey and then retiring to the easy chair or couch for a nap. Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is a chemical precursor to melatonin, a neurotransmitter known to induce sleepiness. However, while the holidays can be exhausting, scientists say it’s a misbelief to blame turkey for the post-meal nap.

Thanksgiving turkey

Research has shown that, following a large meal, less tryptophan will reach the brain than on an empty stomach. The real culprit is the types and quantity of food you’ve eaten. Blame your sleepiness instead on high-calorie, high glycemic index foods.

Here are a few easy science-based tips to ensure not only a delicious turkey but a healthy Thanksgiving.

Meat Consumption and Mortality Risk

According to a study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a high intake of red or processed meat increases the risk of death [1]. In contrast, those consuming white meat had a decreased risk of both total mortality and cancer mortality. Two years ago, a similar study identified an association between red and processed meat and cancers of the colorectum and lung [2], but this is the first large-scale study to assess the relationship between red, white and processed meat consumption and the overall risk of death.

Researchers prospectively (meaning in real time) investigated red, white and processed meat consumption as risk factors for total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. The dietary habits of more than a half-million men and women aged 50 to 71 years were assessed in 1995 using a 124-item food frequency questionnaire. Cohort members were then followed-up over a 10 year period (i.e. from 1995 to 2005).