By Dr. Nicole Sundene
Scottsdale Naturopathic Doctor
Contrary to popular belief Thanksgiving Dinner is actually quite healthy!
When we remove all the notorious “white foods,” such as white refined flours, sugars, and other carbohydrates devoid of nutrients we are actually left with a very colorful whole food fare that is Naturopathic approved!
Of course, you should never try a new recipe while entertaining, but I have given each popular dish a “Naturopathic Makeover" so that you can try a healthier option next time. There should be a next time–in just a few weeks. We should try to eat a turkey dinner more than once a year! Baking a whole turkey is a fantastic healthy and frugal way to optimize your grocery budget. Plus it just makes the house smell good. I freeze carcasses until I have enough to make into a great turkey wild rice soup or organic bone broth.
#1 Naturopathic superfoods found in our traditional American Thanksgiving spread.
Renowned for its high tryptophan content, turkey has the potential to lift our mood and/or make us sleepy. It really depends on how we choose to pair up the amino acids in turkey. When turkey is consumed in conjunction with refined carbohydrates found in mashed potatoes or dinner rolls, the tryptophan converts to serotonin, and in low light conditions the excess serotonin converts in to melatonin, the nighttime hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Serotonin gives you that good “Turkey Buzz." Serotonin converting into Melatonin is what sends you straight to the couch for a nice nap. If you are depressed you should work turkey, cottage cheese, and salmon into your weekly rotation so you can benefit from my other favorite high tryptophan foods, or you can also just try some 5-HTP.
When we eat turkey in the absence of carbohydrates the amino acids that increase energizing catecholamines are able to cross the blood brain barrier and the result is an energized good mood. If you aren’t a breakfast person try a bit of salmon, cottage cheese, or turkey to start your day, support your adrenal glands, and keep you energized and out of "Fight, Fright, or Flight" stress responses until lunch. As a Naturopathic Doctor and Female Hormone Specialist that specializes in correcting hormones and neurotransmitters in anxiety, depression, and chronic pain patients like a "Holistic Psychiatrist," the #1 problem I see with my mental health patients is they are not getting enough protein in their diet and thus their neurotransmitters when we measure them are too low. Both Hormones and Neurotransmitters require adequate protein and good Omega-3 Fats to be produced.
Naturopathic Turkey Makeover: Hold the butter, skip the stuffing and go straight for olive oil and lemon as your poultry flavorings of choice. If you bake your turkey at 320F you will be well below the smoking point of olive oil.
Stuffing the cavity of the turkey with whole lemon halves will also give the turkey a “salty flavor” so you can use the least amount of organic sea salt necessary. Stuff some garlic cloves and thyme under the skin of the turkey, and in the cavity along with the lemons.
My daughter's favorite thing to do each year is to inject our turkey with herbal butter. Medical geeks can get crafty and inject herbal seasonings mixed with your basting solution of olive oil and lemon straight into the meat with syringes (yes you can buy meat syringes at the store too.) Then just baste and bake as usual. Salt and pepper your turkey mainly on your dinner plate, not in the oven. Salt always loses flavor as it cooks and the best flavor comes from that final sprinkling. Salting your meat while cooking also dries it out, so really it is not just healthy but smart.
To benefit from the tryptophan in turkey don’t overdo it with your carbs….that is unless you are heading straight to bed! To boost your mood opt to pair your turkey with the “slow carbs” found in fruits and veggies. Skip the dinner roll and the mound of mashed potatoes. A fist-sized portion of carbs is all you need. Never shall we be "Double Fisting" with our carbs! I personally hate tracking my macro's so I have learned to just eyeball all my foods and that a fist sized portion is enough to keep my blood sugar stable without over-doing it. Women generally do not feel well on the evil Keto Diet that I detest, and do need a reasonable amount of carbs to keep their blood sugar, energy and mood stable.
If you are adventurous, you can also go outside for a little walk after you eat your turkey to stay energized. The full spectrum light will prevent the melatonin formation that makes us all so sleepy.
The moral of the turkey story is that tryptophan converts to serotonin which makes us happy, and in the presence of excess dietary sugar and darkness serotonin converts to melatonin, and melatonin makes us drowsy. That is why all people living in the Northern dreary places.... unlike sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, will have no choice but to stare at a 10,000 Lux lightbox to stay awake.
Did you ever wonder where that traditional smell of Thanksgiving came from? You may not know if you haven’t ever prepared the meal. That certain flavor comes from the herb thyme that we traditionally use to flavor our stuffing. Thyme made in on my blog of favorite things as it is a fantastic healing herb that is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal just like most of its relatives in the “laminacea” or mint family.
Thyme is used in making “Listerine” mouthwash, or at least it traditionally was. The aromatic oils in thyme are also fantastic for indigestion, no wonder this is the key point herbal medicine of our great American overeating day!
Naturopathic Stuffing Makeover: Just lose the stuffing! Stuffing although delicious is one of the biggest calorie mongers on the menu. If this is your favorite thing you will need to cut back somewhere else on your plate. The new America is a whole food America.
Whatever you do, please don’t bake your stuffing inside the turkey, this makes it that much more fattening, and sets people up for food poisoning if not adequately cooked through. You HAVE to check the temperature of your stuffing AND your turkey.
Instead try a stuffing in your crockpot of brown rice or quinoa, thyme, raw nuts and seeds, dried fruit, garlic, and your favorite stuffing spices instead of the traditional white food fest. At least experiment with healthy stuffing alternatives for your non-holiday feasts. I will allow everyone to eat stuffing one day a year on my whole foods diet. If you can “just say no to stuffing” then you get bonus points and will immediately benefit by feeling good about yourself and not overstuffed from stuffing.
Delicious and healthy antioxidant rich fruit that fight aging, inflammation, and bladder infections.
Why are berries all the latest rage? As I discuss in my "Favorite Herbs for Women's Health" blog cranberries are high in antioxidants. From a botanical standpoint, the plant smartly creates these antioxidant polyphenols known as “proanthocyanins” to protect the skin of the fruit from the sun. The fruit does not have Banana Boat SPF and cannot use sunlight to produce energy in the manner that the leaves of the plant do, so the antioxidants are “nature’s sunscreen”. Without their protective antioxidants, berries would shrivel and burn under the sun’s harsh rays. My #1Naturopathic Dermatology tip is to eat LOTS of berries to prevent skin cancer.
The ingenious antioxidant protection devised by the plant also kindly protects us from the free radical damage that results from the reactive oxygen species we are constantly exposed to in our polluted stressful environment. The skin, eyes, and blood vessels are specifically protected by the proanthocyanins in berries.
Most people know that cranberry juice is good for bladder infections. E. coli, the bacteria that causes most bladder infections is unable to adhere to the lining of the bladder thanks to cranberry.
What most people don’t know though is that there is not a therapeutic cranberry juice out there that really tastes that good! If you are drinking a “delicious” glass of cranberry juice every day then you are probably not doing much to prevent a bladder infection. You should read the label because you are probably drinking a delicious glass of high fructose corn syrup(HFCS) and food coloring.
When shopping for cranberry juice, be sure to read the label and purchase only 100% pure cranberry juice. The HFCS juice trend faded out in the nineties. And a cranberry juice loaded with grape juice, apple juice or heaven forbid high fructose corn syrup is simply not going to be effective for preventing disease or bladder infections. To make cranberry juice more palatable add a packet of stevia, mix with 50% pure blueberry juice and dilute by half with water. Blueberries are also fantastic antioxidants that prevent bladder infections and aging.
Naturopathic Cranberry Sauce Makeover: Try experimenting with healthier natural sweeteners like agave, brown rice syrup, and stevia for homemade cranberry sauce. Adding a bunch of refined sugars and other refined pollutants to cranberries defeats their protective healing purpose. I like to add a little natural sweetener and then a lot of stevia so that the stevia alone does not cause the dish to taste bitter.
Did you know many Bioidencial female hormones are made from yams? Yams are amazing Naturopathic food because they also are a rich source of beta carotene and other important carotenoids that prevent cancer, protect our eyes, mucous membranes, and are therefore important immune boosting foods!
Yellow and orange foods are particularly protective to the lungs, reproductive system, and eyes. This is why I use carrots in my "Coconut Carrot Asthma Recipe" any orange veggie will work.
No, carrots probably don’t improve your vision like they show in cartoons, but the carotenoids in them have been shown to be protective and preventative for both cataracts and macular degeneration. So they may not perfect your vision, but they will protect against its degeneration. Certain antioxidants have affiliations for certain tissues in our systems. Be sure to eat something yellow and orange every day, and I’m not talking about circus peanuts! Eating by the rainbow is the diet for the new millennium. If you are struggling with this new trend you may need to grab a multivitamin through Fullscript as Cyber Monday everything will be 25%. My favorite multivitamins for women are Femone, The Big One Plus by Metbolic Mainetenanca and Pure Encapsulations Prenatal, Multivitamin or the Female Power packs are awesome! My patients always receive 20% on their Vitamins.
Naturopathic Yam Makeover: Lose the marshmallows! Marshmallows are completely out of style. Less is more now. Try your traditional whipped yam recipe without the marshmallows. Garnish with pecans or shredded coconut instead, or just let them stand alone as the amazing Naturopathic superfood they are. Try healthier sweeteners in your candied yam recipes, like brown rice syrup, agave, or stevia and flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or pumpkin pie spice.
Baked yams as pictured are delicious and simple! Try roasting yams in the oven at 350F 30-40 minutes until fork tender. You can also steam yams till tender, drizzle with olive oil and give a sprinkle of sea salt for a regular dinner side dish. The peel of vegetables is where all the nutrients and fiber lies. Buy yams organic if you are going to eat the peel since they are a root vegetable. All root vegetables are naturally riddled with pesticides as they absorb and concentrate them from the soil. But, since yams and sweet potatoes are dirt cheap, they are worth the extra splurge. Everyone that is “cool now” is eating yams and sweet potatoes, so hopefully, that includes you. I do expect my Naturopathic patients to be the "Beautiful People" on the inside and out!
For a healthy wheat free “sweet potato pie” scoop out freshly baked sweet potato just like what is pictured here, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, drizzle with honey, and top with shredded coconut! Without the pie crust you have earned the calories to add a small dollop of your favorite organic vanilla ice cream. It sounds weird, but it is truly delicious. Who has the time to bake an entire pie anyways when you can just toss a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven? Isn’t healthy easy? That is why it is so stylish Don't forget to stab them repeatedly with a fork which is my favorite thing to do when I am feeling Perimenopausal Rage, PMSy or Angry! 🙂
Green beans are loaded with fiber, beta carotene, B-vitamins, calcium, and potassium. Eating any beans are a fantastic diabetic trick for lowering the glycemic load of a meal. Beans truly are the “magical fruit” for a reason. Now eating too many beans may not make you too popular, but at least they will make you more attractive and youthful and trim your waist line.
Naturopathic Green Bean Makeover: Lightly steam your green beans, they are done when they turn bright green, don’t boil them into a nutrient devoid lifeless brown mess. We just don’t boil vegetables anymore. If you boil them you should drink the water too as that is where all the vitamins go. It is just wrong on so many levels, and the kind of thing that only belongs in the “worse dressed” section of the tabloids. Canned green beans went out with acid washed jeans. Always opt for fresh or frozen before grabbing for cans.
I don’t mean to sound bossy, but you have to lose the white canned cream of mushroom soup garbage, and dress your beans with olive oil or your favorite olive oil based salad dressing. If you have to defy me and use a cream based soup then grab an organic one, as most cheap soups are the worst of the worst processed food nastiness.
Now add carmelized REAL onions, not those fake canned crunchies that were SO 1981. It is important that you keep up with the latest trends. Almond slivers should be RAW to maximally benefit from the cancer fighting phenolic acids and healthy fats, and of course that also is the stylish thing that everyone else is doing. Especially celebrities. This is how celebrities eat on their “designer diets” so as long as you follow my blogs and social media recipe videos on Facebook and Instragram linked below you can be as fabulous as a celebrity without paying premium prices!
If you keep the peel on the potatoes before you mash them, then I will give you permission to eat them. I throw a couple cloves of garlic in at this point too.
Potatoes get a bad wrap because we don’t eat the peel. Buy organic potatoes and mash them WHOLE. The peel of the potato contains fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, and potassium. If you want bonus points buy purple potatoes because they are rich in flavonoids that help fix hormone imbalance, weight gain, and fight aging.
Some people with arthritis don’t tolerate potatoes well, if you have arthritis, potatoes and foods in the solonacea family like eggplant, peppers, onions, and so forth just may not be the right choice for you.
Naturopathic Mashed Potato Makeover: There are a few great makeover tricks you can implement to freshen up a rather dead ugly lifeless food like mashed potatoes. Definitely stand by ready and loaded with your garlic press and press about a clove per large potato. Garlic supports the immune and cardiovascular systems. Garlic also prevents and kills parasites.
I always add cottage cheese to my mashed potatoes to give them that creamy consistency, this protein bump also decreases the glycemic load for dieters, and diabetics. Cottage cheese is also rich in mood boosting tryptophan so if you are chronically fatigued or depressed this amino acid may help. Remember we have to eat protein, and fiber with EVERY meal to prevent diabetes, blood sugar crashes from hypoglycemia, and obesity. Plus all the cool kids are doing it.
Try olive oil instead of butter, or buttermilk as it ads a buttery flavor with less saturated fat. Try adding steamed arugula or spinach in at the end to create a gourmet effect, and if you HAVE to have that buttery flavor from organic butter (please don’t EVER use margarine if you learn anything from my nags. Please just go throw out your tub of margarine in the garbage where it belongs, and never buy it again, or any other hydrogenated oil product that serves no other biochemical purpose in life but to rapidly age you, clog your arteries, and make you unnecessarily fat. When organic butter is on sale I stock up and put it in my freezer. We want to be the least amount of fat, inflamed and in pain right? Your body can’t use margarine so it converts it to fat storage which increases hormone imbalance, estrogen dominance and pain…if you don't want to take my word for it watch my Free Class on "Metabolism, Pain & Hormones" where I break down the biochemistry of exactly how saturated fats and trans fats cause us to be in pain, estrogen dominant and gain weight. So if you are trying to lose weight, balance your hormones or fight chronic pain please use real organic butter judiciously. Try using low fat buttermilk in lieu of regular milk if you must do dairy and NEED that butter flavor. It gives the buttery flavor without all the poisonous saturated fats. Sprinkle with sea salt and organic pepper. Enjoy!
Are you as terrified of minced meat pie as I am? Well most of us in my family are. My Mom and Aunt Brenda love to have it as a reminder of their Mom's favorite pie and my sister and I would always roll our eyes in horror that they think we would eat a meat pie. Until we got older and discovered that modern “minced meat” is just a fruit sauce made of dates and other dried fruits and not some leftover cafeteria meat concoction.
Well, the beauty of this is that dates, figs, prunes, apples, and most dried fruits score high on the ORAC, meaning they have extremely high free radical fighting potential. Antioxidants=Anti-aging. Memorize that. Aging isn’t just about vanity and outer appearance. Your organs and blood vessels are aging on the inside as we sit here. If it doesn’t look good on the outside it doesn’t look good on the inside either. True beauty is an inside out job. Eat more antioxidants to prevent disease and you will be rewarded with a continuously youthful glow.
Let me be the first to announce that Minced Meat Pies are now the HOTTEST trend for fall. Don’t worry they only show up on the whole foods runway once every 50 years.
Naturopathic Minced Meat Makeover: Opt for a gluten free crust or nut crust and use organic butter rather than margarine (heaven forbid.) If you really want to impress those avoiding gluten with your gourmet skills, you can add a dollop of your favorite organic minced meat filling to half a sliced date and top with a splash of real whipped cream. Dates are also delicious stuffed with various nut butters, and chocolates as I just recently learned from my nurse friend Rod Newbound, RN.
“Yes! Dr. Nicole says I can have a glass of red wine!” Just remember that is only ONE to two glasses of red wine–max. That is one drink per day not per hour–and no you can’t save them all up for the end of the week. It just doesn’t work that way. The benefits of the cancer fighting, anti-aging polyphenols in red wine known as resveratol go down as you burden your liver with alcohol. As with everything, moderation is key. Even too much water will kill cause hyponatremia and kill you.
Naturopathic Red Wine Makeover: Remember that one glass is better for you than the entire bottle. Opt for an organic wine as pesticides in non-organic are very high. Find low carb wines for less of a headache the next day. Remember to never drive while you are drinking. The most stylish people always have a driver…er…cab driver. Even one glass of alcohol impairs your judgment enough to put an end to your happy holiday–or worse yet–someone else’s.
Please always be considerate to the safety of others when imbibing during the holiday season.
Hope you all have a Happy AND Healthy Thanksgiving! Have fun wowing all your friends and family with this questionably boring kitchen table talk of the Thanksgiving superfoods and how to give them makeovers. Let me know if you manage to pull it off and keep them interested! Feel free to share any of your healthy Thanksgiving recipe tips in the comments section.
Thanks much for sharing my Naturopathic tips with your friends and family. I am thankful for my awesome patients, friends, and family!
Have a Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving from your #1 Favorite Naturopathic Doctor!
I am truly THANKFUL for all of the kindness I have received from my tribe of amazing women in my Naturopathic women's health practice. Thank you for your patience, kindness, understanding and grace during the most difficult time I have ever experienced in 22 years of Women's Health! The gifts, and cards and words of encouragement, kind text messages of gratitude for the service I provide have been the ONLY thing to keep me going during this immensely challenging time.
Normally the doctor takes care of the patients but this past year many of you have taken care of me and it brings tears to my eyes to think of all of the kind things people have done to show their gratitude. I even had an unemployed patient send me a Target Gift Card because she was worried about me. Things are getting better and I hope to soon be able to simply worry and fret over my patients again as we return to normal.
I appreciate and love you all very much and if it wasn't so important to keep doing my job I would have quit many months ago without your support and kindness!
Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 22 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 27 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones and Naturopathy!