Category: Nutrition

Thanksgiving Health Myths and Facts

Before scrolling to the bottom of the page to see the answers, see if you can figure out which of the following statements are facts and which are fiction:

#1. Turkey makes you sleepy.

#2. Thanksgiving chefs have an increased risk of burns and cuts.

#3. The average Thanksgiving costs 3000 calories and 226 grams of fat.

#4. Stuffing your turkey increases the risk of salmonella poisoning.








….figured out which statements are fact and which are fiction?  If yes, keep scrolling…if no, keep scrolling…







#2: Thanksgiving chefs have an increased risk for burns and cuts.

It’s TRUE!  Think about how busy the kitchen gets during the Thanksgiving holiday – people can’t resist the smell of Thanksgiving dinner, leading them to gravitate toward and around the kitchen; kids running around playing tag and/or football in and around the kitchen; and the college students grazing on more free food than they have probably had set in front of them all semester…more hands in the kitchen increases the likelihood of cuts and burns whether due to cooking, or just being in the way of the cook.

#3:  The average Thanksgiving costs 3000 calories and 275 grams of fat!

Also true, but this can’t be THAT much of a surprise, right?  All those starches and desserts…so wrong, yet so right…just don’t make a habit of it and try to listen to your stomach – if it’s full, maybe stop after only two slices of Aunt Suzie’s famous pie.


#1: The biggest myth of all: Turkey makes you sleepy.

No it doesn’t.  Turkey has no more of that magical natural sedative called tryptophan than any other meat.  So what is it that makes you sleepy? Carbs...

#4: Stuffing your turkey increases the risk of salmonella poisoning.

Not true.  Some people like the stuffing that comes out of the bird, and others would rather never see anything put on their plate that was prepared in such a way.  However, whatever your taste may be, fresh-out-the-bird stuffing can be safe (and for those of you who like that sort of thing, I’m sure you would add ‘yummy’) as long as you follow some very easy guidelines:

1.Make sure the stuffing is moist and loosely packed

2. DO NOT BUY A PRE-STUFFED TURKEY! Instead, stuff it yourself right before popping it in the oven.

3. Internal stuffing temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


Red Wine – Revving Up Against Cancer

Alcohol is a double-edged sword. Usually a social libation associated with pleasure, alcohol’s “sharper” side also cuts deeply the world over, in unhealthy compulsions, peer pressures, binge drinking, or addiction.

But what can a drink — like red winegive us, in terms of health, when consumed in moderation?  Red wine is a drink present in religious and cultural lore for thousands of years, and also the subject of contemporary scientific interest in its instrumental use in fighting cancer.

Curious about family and friends’ anecdotal evidence of the health benefits of red wine, I wondered: why red wine over white (see this MD Anderson plug), and, for that matter, over any other drinks?

My inquiry begins with the book Foods To Fight Cancer, an accessible “go-to” guide by researchers Dr. Richard Believeau, and Dr. Denis Gingras. The book lays out in “lay terms” the science of preventative (and potentially therapeutic) anti-cancer nutrition. Molecular processes are whittled to their core, essential facts (and even supplemented by appealing color photos!). In a chapter detailing the unique characteristics of this alcoholic beverage we know as red wine, the authors focus on the variety of phytochemical compounds contained in the fermented skin of red grapes. (Phytochemical compounds are made by plants, and are studied for their effects on human health).


  • Reservatrol is present in red wine at 16 times the level of white wine, according to Beleiveau and Gingras’ research; and comes in far more concentrated forms through alcohol-based extraction, even more so than in its original grape form. Because it is absorbed quickly in the body and bloodstream, including in amounts attained by moderate human consumption of red wine, reservatrol can act swiftly in the body to attack cancerous cells  — a finding accorded by studies with animal models of colon, esophogeal, and breast cancers induced by chemical substances and inhibited by reservatrol.
  • This compound turns out to be pretty impressive – ! Namely, reservatrol present in red wine “possesses powerful anticancer activity” at 3 important levels: cancer cell initiation, promotion, and progression. Once inside the body, reservatrol’s power even extends into its byproducts, such as piceatannol, a molecule which specifically produces cancer cell death in the body.
  • Reservatrol’s “modes of action” can be compared to synthetic drugs designed to limit the growth of cancerous cells — akin to several other key anticancer foods, such as the spice curcumin. In order to prove their “weight” as an anticancer force, these natural compounds are now paradoxically entering the world of pharmaceutical trials (in the case of the spice curcumin), and food design and engineering (in the case of reservatrol), with the possibilities afforded by concentrated form.

So, if we are talking about choices in the field of play, relaxation, and leisure — venturing beyond our “typical” discussions of dietary options which feed or stem the spread of cancerous cells in our bodies — it appears red wine is on the table! Of course, anything on the table has both its benefits and drawbacks.

Of course, when we’re talking cancer and nutrition, the larger questions also still remain — whether or not we can access and afford vegetables and plant-based foods, foods which are whole and not toxically amended with chemicals.

But if the simple question is which drink to have when gathering with friends or coworkers for the holidays or over the weekend, or which beverage to “unwind” with after a long day once or twice per week, then one option stands out above all the rest: red wine.








*Photo taken of the book “Foods to Fight Cancer,” by Beliveau, Gingras, London: DK Publishing, 2007.