A huge focus of the festive period is the food and drink we consume and more often than not, our christmas dinner choices are deemed to be unhealthy, lacking in nutrients and highly calorific.
You may be surprised to find out that the there are a number of Christmas choices that do not deserve the bad press and tucking into your traditional Christmas dinner may, in fact, be a great source of nutrients.
The star of our Christmas day dinner. Turkey is lean and extremely nutritious. As a first class protein, it contains all the essential amino acids. It is a particularly rich source of the essential amino acid, Tryptophan, which is am important precursor to Serotonin; our mood enhancing neurotransmitter. So, your Christmas meal is not only a good source of at least one essential amino acid, but it is also a rich source of iron, zinc, potassium as well as vitamins B6 and B3, both essential vitamins for the body’s energy production processes and immune system. So, enjoy this tasty, flavoursome meat knowing that you are providing your body with plenty of goodness.
They may be a source of contention as to whether they deserve their place as part of your Christmas feast, but these nutritional powerhouses which are very low in calories and a rich source of many valuable nutrients will always be granted a special spot on my Christmas plate! They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese as well as, perhaps surprisingly, protein. They also contain compounds called Glucosinolates, which support the body’s detoxification processes, clearing the body of, in particular, potentially harmful carcinogenic toxins. High in fibre they help to balance blood sugars and improve digestive health.
Nuts are often considered to be high in calories and best avoided. They are indeed high in calories due to their high fat content, but these are essential heart-friendly anti-inflammatory fats, which we should be eating plenty of. All nuts provide different nutrients each offering varying health benefits;
- Almonds are rich in calcium and vitamin E, essential for good skin health.
- Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, an important antioxidant for Thyroid health.
- Cashews are a rich source of magnesium, vital for energy production if you don’t eat enough dark green leafy vegetables.
- Walnuts are a particularly good source of omega-3s, a great alternative if you’re not keen on oily fish.
These can be eaten roasted as a snack, as part of a stuffing or a nut roast and, unlike other nuts do not contain the same fats and are therefore low in calories. They are nutritious, providing good sources of iron, B vitamins and folate, as well as good protein and fibre.
These juicy fruits, part of the citrus family, provide the antioxidant vitamin C. Its bright orange colour also indicates that it is also a good source of beta-carotene, which the body needs to make another antioxidant vitamin A. In addition, they provide calcium, magnesium and potassium and folate. So, snacking on these refreshing fruits will be a healthy choice that will help to boost your immune health at this busy time.
Whilst your traditional Christmas pudding is undoubtedly high in sugar, it does contain plenty of dried fruit; a good source of B vitamins, potassium, calcium, iron and fibre and as such, does contribute towards the recommended 7-a-day. In addition, Christmas puddings are also rich in the spice cinnamon, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits and can help to balance blood sugar.
The health benefits of red wine have been documented and in comparison with other alcoholic drinks, can be considered a “healthier“ option. Whilst I would not advocate excessive alcohol consumption, opting for red wine as a drink of choice can provide some (limited) benefits, due to its antioxidant content. The antioxidant Resveratrol, found in the skins of grapes, is believed to be responsible for the suggested health benefits of red wine. In general the darker the grape, the higher the antioxidant content. However, it is also worth remembering that wine, whatever the colour, is highly calorific due to it’s alcohol content, which, when consumed in excess will be detrimental to your health.
Consider alternating your alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic choices but be careful not to opt for fizzy drinks instead, if you’re looking to keep an eye on your weight. A recent study concluded that swapping just one 8oz glass of fizzy drink for an equivalent glass of water reduced calorie consumption significantly and does provide health benefits, such as lower blood pressure. Try infusing cucumber and mint into your usual glass of water for a refreshing twist.