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A Feast for Your Ears

Thanksgiving in one of, if not the, most anticipated meal of the year. How do I know? The National Turkey Federation (yes, there is such an organization) says 88 percent of all Americans eat turkey at the big November dinner. That translates into 46 million turkeys being consumed each year. I think it’s safe to say, we look forward to this annual feast.

The menu of course is the highlight of the day. Did you know that much of 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, so no feeling guilty about refilling your plate the second time (or third).  

Let’s start with sweet potatoes, a Thanksgiving staple. They are chocked full of potassium. Love green bean casserole? You’re in luck, because beans are also a great source of that nutrient. Other sources of potassium include roasted butternut squash and the holiday meal's main attraction: turkey!

I’m sure you’re wondering how a helping of turkey and a mound of sweet potatoes helps you hear. Potassium helps regulate the fluid in your blood and body tissue. That fluid in the inner ear—the area that translates noise into electrical impulses that the brain interprets as sound—needs a rich supply of the nutrient. There is no direct link to justify taking potassium supplements to improve hearing, but eating foods containing potassium can’t hurt, especially if the dishes are tasty.

Let’s go to the dark, leafy greens, like spinach and arugula, which are rich in folic acid. Studies have shown that insufficient folates are linked to age-related hearing loss. So, why not mix some into your hummus for a snack before the meal or make a dinner salad. 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. I know, I know, Brussel sprouts are not many people’s favorite, but roasted and sprinkled with some fresh Parmesan cheese may entice someone to give them a try.  

What would Thanksgiving be without a delicious, buttered roll? Whole wheat bread is rich in magnesium, which helps maintain normal nerve function. It may help reduce the risk of tinnitus (ringing in the ear), which is caused by over-excited nerve endings. Since many forms of tinnitus have no cure, keeping a nutrient-rich diet is important for reducing your chances of getting this all-too-common condition. Quinoa, an ancient Peruvian grain, is loaded with magnesium as well. And if you're a pie lover, don't worry about indulging in that second slice of pecan pie. (Yay!) Nuts are a great source of magnesium.

Oysters were part of the first Thanksgiving, though they aren’t usually on the holiday menu. They contain zinc, a mineral linked to the reduction of tinnitus and prebycusis (age-related hearing loss). The inner ear has an extremely high concentration of zinc, so if your guests are in the mood for something different this year, shellfish is a great way to get a hefty dose of zinc. You can always set out a bowl of nuts like cashews, almonds or pistachios as a pre-dinner snack for the hungry relatives prowling around the kitchen.

So, while you’re giving thanks, go ahead and indulge. You'll be helping your hearing health.

Claudia Hensen's Blog Series