Like everything else since the pandemic began, Thanksgiving will look a little different this year. But for many, the traditional feast will still take place, in one form or another.
And while the typical spread includes plenty of foods that aren’t exactly great for your oral health – breads, pies, stuffing, and more – there’s also a lot that your teeth and gums can be grateful for, nutrition-wise.
Turkey, for instance, contains good amounts of phosphorus and potassium. The former helps keep tooth enamel strong, while the latter supports bone health and works with magnesium to keep your blood from becoming too acidic, which can leach calcium from bone and teeth alike.
Turkey is also a good source of selenium, which binds with proteins to make powerful antioxidants known as selenoproteins. The mineral can also replace sulfur in bonds of collagen, important for healthy teeth and gums alike.
Or consider cranberries, which contain polyphenols known to inhibit oral biofilm (plaque) growth. They’re also rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and quercetin, which help counter the kind of inflammation that distinguishes gum disease.
Of course, the usual cranberry sauce can also contain a whole lot of sugar, off-setting its nutritional punch. On the upside, sugar-free versions are possible and easy to make – like this one, sweetened with stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Regular readers of this blog may recall that those last two sugar substitutes may actually help prevent tooth decay, as well.
Another Thanksgiving favorite that often burdens an otherwise healthy food with refined sugars is sweet potato casserole. Sweet potatoes contain a good amount of vitamin C, potassium, and other micronutrients essential for good oral health. They also include an amazing amount of vitamin A – nearly 800% of the recommended daily value in each one-cup serving!. Vitamin A helps maintain the mucous membranes and soft tissues of the gums, and also helps prevent dry mouth.
But here, too, there are lots of options for making healthier, even sugar-free versions that are just as delicious – or even more so! Here are three of our favorites:
Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole (Joy Food Sunshine): This version contains no added sugars and is paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Its added sweetness comes courtesy of unsweetened applesauce.
Paleo (or Vegan!) Sweet Potato Casserole (One Lovely Life): This one contains a small amount of maple syrup in both the potatoes and toppings. Like the other casseroles here, it can easily be prepared ahead of time so all you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is make and spread the pecan topping, and pop it in the oven.
No-Sugar-Added Sweet Potato Casserole (Eating Well): This version gets its sweetness from spices and dried fruit instead of added sugar. We also love the addition of pepitas to the nut topping for a little extra crunch!
Have a favorite healthy spin on a traditionally sugar- or carb-centric holiday favorite? Share it in the comments!