When it comes to Thanksgiving, there’s one great debate: whether to serve pumpkin or sweet potato. Both can be made in healthy side dishes or tasty desserts, so which should you choose? Surprisingly, your choice may come down to mind–body well-being and what you or your Thanksgiving family most need this holiday season.
Sweet Potato Benefits
Ayurveda considers sweet potatoes to be a rasayana, a food with life-giving essence, and it’s no wonder why. It’s sweet with nearly nine times as much sugar as pumpkin and five times as many calories per cup. When prepared with additional sugars (like brown sugar) it becomes even sweeter to taste and more filling, making it the perfect holiday comfort food. It’s also packed with potassium, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and fiber to aid in digestion.
While I don’t recommend adding additional sugar to your sweet potato (you’re sweet enough already), it’s a great choice for your elderly or ill relatives that need that extra calorie punch per serving. Being a rasayana, sweet potato has more than just physical health benefits. It can also uplift your mood, help you feel sated more quickly than other foods, and feel emotionally comforted, which is something we all need a healthy dose of from time to time. Want to add more health and mood-boosting benefits to the mix? Try serving your sweet potato dish with ghee instead of butter.
If you’re looking to not gain weight this holiday season, consider serving a pumpkin dish or dessert instead. It’s low in carbs and calories, and since it pairs very well with spices can give your food a flavor kick without packing on the pounds. Pumpkin may as well be considered a superfood with all of its nutrients and high-fiber benefits. It contains alpha & beta carotene, lutein and vitamin A (all of which promote eye health), vitamin C and fiber, which are good for your heart, is high in antioxidants, boosts immunity, and may even reverse sun damage to your skin.
The high fiber content can also slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, which is great for diabetics and anyone that doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of having too much sugar. Did you know that sugar has been linked with an increase in acne, depression, skin aging, energy decline, gout, cognitive decline, and inflammation in the body, amongst other health issues? Yikes.
What This Means for Your Mental Well-being
A simple choice in what you eat can make a huge difference in your overall mental health. Need an emotional pick-me-up? Go for the sweet potato. Need to increase your motivation and overall energy levels to get stuff done? Go for the pumpkin. Do you enjoy complex flavor profiles and the use of spices when you cook? Definitely pumpkin is your choice. Find what fits for your current needs and go with it. Both have tremendous mood and health benefits, you just have to know which will work better for you, and your family.
Jaya Jaya Myra is a wellness lifestyle expert and go-to media expert on mind-body wellness, stress management, mindfulness, food for mood, and natural, healthy living. She’s a best-selling author, TEDx and motivational speaker, and creator of The WELL Method for purpose-filled healthy living. Visit www.JayaJayaMyra.com