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Thanksgiving foods offer longevity boost

A new study shows that eating carotene-rich foods, such as sweet potato, pumpkin, cranberry and others rich in these antioxidant vitamin-A precursors may add years to your life.

Sweet potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin, butternut squash ... it turns out that these share much more than our Thanksgiving table. This morning I learned that eating these foods and others rich in carotenes (vitamin-A precursors and antioxidants that lend deep colors to these foods) may actually add years to my life, according to new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers looked at alpha-carotene blood levels of thousands of subjects over a 14 year period. Those with highest alpha-carotene levels were up to 39 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes. (Now that's something to be thankful for!)

Alpha-carotene is the second most common type of carotene, after beta-carotene, and is a similar precursor to vitamin A. Though less easily converted by the body into vitamin A, alpha-carotene is a more potent antioxidant, better protecting cells from free-radical damage and inhibiting cancer.

So, go ahead: Indulge in sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, winter squash, and pumpkin pie. Check out these recipes for healthier (and lower-calorie) takes on Thanksgiving favorites.

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