Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rodger McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel and interim president.
For Thanksgiving, I have some health questions. Let’s start with one I hear pretty much every year: Does eating turkey actually make you sleepy?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Nope. The myth stems from the fact that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid essential for producing serotonin, which regulates mood and can induce sleepiness. Turkey doesn’t have any more of the amino acid than other animal proteins.
The true culprits may sit elsewhere on your plate. Carbohydrate-rich foods like dinner rolls, mashed potatoes and stuffing cause a chain reaction that creates the sleep-inducing chemical called melatonin in the brain.
Are sweet potatoes better for you than traditional potatoes?
Sweet potatoes and white potatoes have roughly the same number of calories, protein and carbohydrates. Traditional potatoes have more potassium, and sweet potatoes are higher in fiber and rich in vitamin A. Sweet potatoes generally have a lower glycemic index, which indicates how quickly a food will cause your blood sugar to rise.
The health detractors for potato dishes are often in the preparation and toppings. Boiled is healthier than baked or fried. If you can resist, skip the butter, cream and marshmallows.
How about cranberry sauce versus cranberry jelly?
Homemade cranberry sauce retains more of the nutritional value of the foundational fruit than its canned, jellied cousin. While the do-it-yourself version gets a higher health score, those recipes often call for a cup of sugar. Lowering the amount of sugar or opting for natural sweeteners can make for a better-for-you turkey topping.
If I starve myself all day leading up to dinner, is that better or worse?
It may be tempting to “save space” for holiday calories, but don’t plan on it. Missing meals will lower your blood sugar and leave you irritable and fatigued. And if you’re excessively hungry, you’re more likely to overindulge once dinner is served.
Eat consistently throughout the day with a focus on protein, fiber and plenty of water, and you’ll minimize the chances of post-turkey-day remorse.
What is the ideal time to eat Thanksgiving dinner?
Whenever you want!
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!