The Nutritional Rock Stars of Your Thanksgiving Meal
Credit: Thanksgiving dinner photo via Shutterstock

If you're like most people in this country, you're starting to think about certain foods that don't cross your mind until, well, right about now. These seasonal foods are often reserved for special dinners, but that doesn't have to be the case. For example, cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving dinner staple, but do you ever prepare it outside of this holiday?

Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without pumpkin pie, but have you ever considered adding a pumpkin soup or salad to your weeknight meals?

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner is packed with nutritional rock stars, so why not have these foods more often? Studies show that there's good reason to do just that. Here is a closer look at some potential health benefits:

Cranberry: Adding cranberry flavonoids to a preventative regimen helped protect the liver from a known toxin, according to a June study in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Cranberry also contains powerful antioxidants including vitamin C and glutathione.

Beyond Thanksgiving: Drink unsweetened cranberry juice, toss some dried cranberries into your salads or serve cranberry sauce or chutney alongside chicken or duck.

Pumpkin: People with high blood levels of alpha-carotene may have a reduced risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to a 2010 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Guess what food is rich in alpha-carotene? If you said pumpkin, you'd be right! Pumpkin is also rich beta-carotene, vitamin A and fiber.

Beyond Thanksgiving: Consider making pumpkin soup, or sautéing pumpkin cubes and adding them to salads and stir fries.

Rosemary: A chemical in rosemary oil may be linked to enhanced brain performance, according to a study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. This herb is also a good source of vitamin A, thiamine and magnesium.

Beyond Thanksgiving: Use rosemary to dress up more than just turkey and stuffing. Try adding a pinch of rosemary to any recipe that includes oregano.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!