Contributed by Lauren Clason
Thanksgiving. It’s the most anticipated meal of the year. Considering Americans consume 242 million turkeys each year – 30 percent of that during the holiday alone – it’s safe to say we look forward to Thanksgiving each year for the food and time spent with loved ones. But, what we put on the table is good for more than just stuffing your belly. A number of nutrients found in traditional Thanksgiving dishes have been linked to healthy hearing, meaning you won’t have to feel guilty about bellying up for seconds (or thirds).
Potassium helps regulate fluid in your blood and body tissue. That can be important to your hearing health because the fluid in the inner ear, that part of the ear that translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound, needs a rich supply of the nutrient.
As we age, there can be a drop in an important hormone called aldosterone which is partially responsible for regulating potassium. Research has linked this drop in aldosterone with hearing loss. So, while no direct link has been found that would justify taking potassium supplements to improve hearing health, eating foods containing potassium is beneficial to your overall health.
Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, and they just happen to be chock full of potassium. Love green bean casserole? You’re in luck, because beans are also a great source of the nutrient. Other sources of potassium include roasted butternut squash and the holiday meal’s main attraction: turkey!
Studies have shown that an insufficient level of folates in the body is linked to an increased risk of age-related hearing loss. Deficient folic acid could also cause elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which could increase risk of stroke and heart disease.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and arugula are rich in folates, so mix some into hummus for a starter or snack before the meal or into a salad during dinner. Brussels sprouts also boast a high folic acid count; coat them with olive oil and roast them for the big day. Broccoli is also rich in folic acid; work it into a side dish – raw or steamed – or simply chop it up and serve with some vegetable dip.
Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve function, which may help reduce the risk of tinnitus. Since many forms of tinnitus have no cure, keeping a nutrient-rich diet is important for reducing your chances of experiencing this all too common condition.
Whole wheat bread is rich in magnesium, so choose this hearty grain for your Thanksgiving dinner roll. Quinoa, an ancient Peruvian grain, is loaded with the nutrient. And, if you’re a pie lover, don’t fret about indulging in that slice of pecan pie, as nuts are also a good source of magnesium.
The inner ear has an extremely high concentration of zinc, a mineral which has been linked to a reduction in tinnitus and presbycusis. Because of this, maintaining a diet rich in zinc is essential to maintaining healthy hearing.
Oysters were part of the first Thanksgiving. Though they aren’t typical of today’s traditional holiday menu, if your family is in the mood for something a little different this year, shellfish are a great way to get your daily dose of zinc. Otherwise, set out a bowl of nuts like cashews, almonds or pistachios as a pre-dinner snack for the hungry relatives prowling around the kitchen.
Gratitude for good hearing
While Thanksgiving often tends to be an indulgent meal, it’s good to know that while you’re saying thanks, you’ll also be helping your hearing health. Beyond the holiday season, keep in mind that eating a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables, provides the best mix of beneficial nutrients.
Thanksgiving is a time to recognize and appreciate what you have in life. If that includes a set of healthy ears that allows you to enjoy conversations – even the occasional dysfunctional debate with your drunk uncle – during the holidays, give thanks. Otherwise, seek out the advice of a hearing healthcare professional from our extensive directory. Get started now, and you could be hearing much better in time for the new year!