Consumer Reports: Hidden health benefits in traditional holiday treats

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — It’s Christmas time and there’s no shortage of celebrations packed with favorite foods and maybe some overindulgence.

You might be surprised to learn that some of the season’s most popular indulgences actually have some nutritional value — but there’s a catch. Consumer Reports reveals the traditional holiday treats have hidden benefits.

The catch is, as long as you moderate your intake, you can feel good eating some of these nutrient-dense foods.

Chestnuts can’t live up to their “nut” brethren when it comes to protein, but the holiday favorites are high in fiber, magnesium, folate, vitamin C and potassium. If you’re not a fan, opt for the other nuts, which are also packed with nutritional value, but remember that half a cup of almonds has around 400 calories, compared to just 175 for the same amount of chestnuts.

And when Jack Frost nibbles on your nose, be sure to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa. The most important antioxidant, flavanols, are found in cocoa beans, which are used to make chocolate. They help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels. But skip the instant mixes and make your own using unsweetened cocoa or even melted chocolate. And add some low-fat milk for a calcium boost.

Most of the time, packaged foods and mixes contain ingredients that aren’t good for you, like added sugar and sodium, so it’s usually best to make fresh versions.

In their natural state, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are true powerhouses full of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. But when these awesome foods become cakes, they lose some of their superpowers.

And what about eggnog? Well, maybe it’s a good thing we only enjoy this treat once a year. Made from cream and milk, it’s full of saturated fat and sugar. And while its Caribbean counterpart, coquito, is made from coconut milk, it’s also high in saturated fat and sugar. Enjoy just a small portion and enjoy the taste of the holiday. Sprinkle with pistachios and nutmeg for extra nutrition.

If you’re enjoying the holidays a little too much, says Consumer Reports, don’t beat yourself up. The New Year can be a nice restart when you add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet.

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