THE BLOG
11/22/2010 06:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Anti-Aging Thanksgiving? 3 Healthy Menu Ideas

I initially groaned when I saw the headline "An Anti-Aging Thanksgiving Feast!" on the website, Stop Aging Now. But while it's a bit far-fetched to suggest chowing down on a Thanksgiving feast will make you younger, I can definitely get on board with some of the holiday recipes presented on this site. After all, you can get many of the nutrients you need from healthy food.

First, the Stop Aging Now crew suggests cooking organic, free-range turkey, so you don't expose yourself to hormones, antibiotics and other toxins. Additionally, I present here three side dishes you can add to the menu to help balance out the bird.

A filling starter: Light and fresh autumn pear salad. As Stop Aging Now points out, starting a meal with raw veggies contributes enzymes that help with digestion and make you feel fuller. So if you munch on one of these salads before you attack the main course, you may be inspired to hold off on that extra slice of turkey breast, which could reduce your overall calorie and cholesterol count for the day. Plus this salad calls for walnuts--a great source of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

The mashed-potato alternative: pureed, roasted chestnuts. Speaking of nuts, chestnuts are another great source of nutrients essential for healthy aging. They're high in calcium, which promotes strong bones, and in potassium, which helps your heart beat properly and has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure. 2010-11-16-chestnuts.jpg

I compared the nutritional value of an ounce of mashed potatoes with that of an ounce of roasted chestnuts, using the search engine on CalorieKing.com. Potatoes contain 13.9 milligrams of calcium and 66.1 milligrams of potassium. Chestnuts have a little less calcium--8.2 milligrams--but boast a whopping 167.8 milligrams of potassium per ounce. (The USDA recommends consuming 4,700 mg. a day of potassium for good health.) And depending on how you prepare them, pureed chestnuts can be lower in fat than mashed potatoes.

A low-glycemic dessert: Black bean brownies. OK, so they don't sound very appetizing. But when you consider that an ounce of black beans contains 2.5 grams of protein, 100 milligrams of potassium and zero cholesterol, you might consider baking these brownies instead of pumpkin pie. Stop Aging Now points out that pumpkin pie isn't all that bad because it's high in carotenoids, which are antioxidants that may have cell-protective properties. But there haven't been enough controlled, scientific studies to prove definitively that antioxidants slow the aging process, and pumpkin pie can contain loads of sugar, which promotes obesity.

So that brings us to this intriguing low-sugar brownie recipe. In addition to the beans, it calls for unsweetened chocolate, decaf coffee granules, and either agave nectar or honey instead of sugar. If you just can't turn your back on tradition, perhaps you could put a plate of these brownies next to the pumpkin pie, with a sign on them that says "heart-healthy alternative."

As for the turkey, it does have one redeeming anti-aging quality. It's famously high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that makes you sleepy. Since insomnia is one of the biggest complaints of aging people, you have to give the bird some credit for helping out--at least for one night anyway.