Thanksgiving Food Truths and Myths We Just Can't Shake

Get the straight story on Thanksgiving foods we love, and love to hate.

ByLara Salahi
November 18, 2011, 4:13 PM

Nov. 18, 2011— -- Will your Thanksgiving turkey put you to sleep? Can the stuffing give you salmonella poisoning?

Well, here's the straight story on health myths and facts surrounding the Thanksgiving feast.

Turkey Dinner Makes You Sleepy

Many of us have turkey sandwiches for lunch and don't feel sleepy, but a Thanksgiving turkey dinner seems to slip us into food coma.

While turkey seems to be the likely culprit, it's time to put this myth to bed.

Turkey does contain a protein called tryptophan which can act like a natural sedative. But a large amount – meaning more than just a few slices of turkey -- would have to be consumed alone on an empty stomach.

While the turkey is the spotlight of Thanksgiving, the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, corn, stuffing, wine and biscuits makes the meal complete.

"A more likely scenario is the huge number of calories that people consume rather than the turkey meat," said Dr. Lou Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

A large number of calories consumed from the whole meal produce intestinal hormones which can make you sleepy, said Aronne. So don't blame it all on the turkey.

Canned Foods Contain Cancer Causing BPA

For many of us, there aren't enough hours during Thanksgiving Day to prepare all the food from scratch, especially when you're expecting more family members than the space you have to host them.

It's inevitable that many of us will reach for quick and easy canned corn and cranberry sauce to fulfill hungry guests.

But a recent report released by the Breast Cancer fund suggests that canned foods may contain traces of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in the lining of cans, which has been implicated has a potential carcinogen.

Previous studies suggest BPA levels found in urine may be associated with miscarriages, male infertility, and behavior issues in girls. But it's unclear how much BPA, considered to be a hormone disrupter, can be considered harmful and what level of exposure might cause potentially harmful effects.

Still, many experts said that not all cans contain BPA, and the levels in the cans that do have it are too small to ruin your Thanksgiving meal.

"There are more anti-cancer properties in having vegetables than not eating because of the can," said Aronne.

Drinking More Can Cure that Holiday Hangover

It's the holiday afterparty for some: The pounding head, rocky stomach, the hangover.

You've probably taken all sorts of advice from your friends and family, but the advice you shouldn't take is to drink more alcohol.

"Most hangover cures are by and large not effective besides sleeping and hydrating with water," said Arrone.

Drinking more will only help you get drunk again, which is only a temporary cure for what's sure to be a stronger hangover, he said.

Worse, drinking alcohol to cure a hangover could lead to more dehydration, which can lead to serious health problems.

Holiday Desserts Can Cause Acne

Don't pass up the sweets because of acne fears.

Acne is due to hormone changes in the body and not by consuming sweet or fried food, experts said.

"The problem is that high-fat finger foods gets greasy and you put those fingers up to your face," said Keith Ayoob, Director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "If you don't wash carefully and often, this may clog pores."

So enjoy it in moderation, but make sure more of it ends up in your stomach than on your face.

Salmonella from Turkey Stuffing

This statement sounds more fishy than turkey, but the truth is, it could actually happen.

Stuffing a turkey while raw or not fully cooked can contaminate the stuffing with bacteria like salmonella. Heat can kill some of the bacteria, but because the stuffing is hidden inside the turkey, some of it may not reach the 160 degrees needed to kill off the bacteria.

"If it does reach that temperature then the bird could be overdone," said Ayoob.

While the salmonella risk can be staved off if the stuffing is warm when added to the turkey, you may end up having another problem on your hands.

"But all the turkey fat drips into the stuffing," said Ayoob. "Do we really need another source of fat in a Thanksgiving meal side dish?"

Cook the stuffing and turkey separately, marry them later, and the problem will be solved, he said.

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