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Thanksgiving myths

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This article originally appeared in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, a monthly publication of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
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The feast that officially kicks off the holiday season is here. Thanksgiving is steeped in the comfort and familiarity of traditional foods — turkey and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce —as well as a few time-worn misconceptions. If you blame the turkey for your after-dinner snooze or feel you've ruined your healthy diet by splurging on pumpkin pie, it's time to set things straight. We're taking on — and debunking — five Thanksgiving feast un-truths.

1. Turkey makes you sleepy: Not really.

Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, which is involved in regulating sleep cycles. But many protein-rich foods, including chicken, fish, soybeans, and some cheeses, contain as much or more tryptophan by weight than turkey, yet don't have the same reputation for inducing sleepiness.

Post-meal malaise is more likely due to other factors. The high intake of rapidly digested carbohydrates (e.g., white potatoes, stuffing, sugary desserts) at most Thanksgiving meals increases blood sugar quickly. The major boost in insulin released to manage that blood sugar can cause an overcorrection, leading to low blood sugar levels and tiredness.

Our over-full plates could also contribute to post-feast fatigue. The body diverts blood away from other parts of the body to the digestive tract, which can leave us feeling low energy. Let's not forget the sleep-inducing effects of alcoholic beverages or the exhaustion brought on by preparing the feast and the stress involved in entertaining guests.

Try this: To prevent a stupor caused by overindulgence, don't go into the Thanksgiving meal overly hungry. Eat small portions of white potatoes, stuffing, sweetened cranberry sauce, and other sugary treats — and put those carbs to task with an energizing post meal walk instead of a nap.

2. Canned…
Guest Contributor, Bill Marler, November, Powered By
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