The Hidden Health in your Christmas Dinner
Most of us think of Christmas as an unhealthy time of year, full of alcohol, sugar and over indulgence. It is true that this can certainly be the case, but I think we can easily forget about the healthy aspects of Christmas. A traditional Christmas dinner is packed full of healthy foods, so read on for a reminder of why you might not need to feel so guilty this Christmas.
Turkey is one of the leanest meats around and a great source of protein. Turkey meat is also a good source of Tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter which contributes to good mood, which is in turn converted to melatonin, your sleep hormone. It is also a precursor for vitamin B3 an important B vitamin particularly helpful in cardiovascular disease. Choosing an organic one will make sure you are getting the healthiest meat possible and Norfolk is a great place for this with the famous Norfolk Bronze breed!
Turkey is not complete without cranberry sauce. Cranberries themselves are a good source of vitamin C and fibre. They are also packed full of anthocyanins, phytonutrients that give them their beautiful red colour and have been found to play a beneficial role in cancer, diabetes, neurological and cardiovascular diseases. Anthocyanins are strongly anti-inflammatory and also helpful with eyesight. Cranberry sauce is one of the easiest things to make at home and can be prepared in advance and frozen, ensuring that you are ready for the big day without a processed jar packed full of sugar.
Ah, sprouts. Love 'em or hate 'em, we've all been told how good they are for us, and (as I'm sure we all know), our mums are never wrong! These tiny cabbages belong to the brassica family, one of the most loved by all us nutritionists and one of the most healthy. They are a great source of fibre and vitamin C and contain glucosinolates which are known for their role in cancer prevention. I will admit to not being a fan of sprouts but I always make sure I have some on my plate, and get them down with lots of turkey and mashed potato!
Yes, I am including this on a blog about healthy eating! I don't recommend that you eat this by the spoonful, but goose or duck fat on your roast potatoes will be a much healthier fat to use than olive oil. The reason for this is partly the high cooking temperature. Olive oil becomes unstable above temperatures of around 180 Celsius whereas goose fat can be heated much higher. It is a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can be helpful in lowering cholesterol, is found in goose fat (around 58%). So, when you're planning your roast potatoes, you can reach for the goose fat and enjoy some healthy indulgence!
Christmas is spice to so many of us and we all have extra spices in some way at Christmas whether in mulled wine, mince pie, cake or pudding. None of these seem like the healthiest way of getting them in to you but I want to concentrate on the individual spices and their health benefits. Cinnamon, one of the favourites and a great all rounder. Cinnamon is particularly useful for balancing your blood sugar and can even be taken in supplement form by diabetics. It's a great way of adding sweetness to a dish without increasing sugar.
Ginger is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant spice. It's great for fighting colds and flu and has even been shown to help lower blood pressure. If you've over-indulged a bit, it can also be helpful in lowering your blood sugar and easing indigestion. Use the fresh root in a warmly spiced tea or add it to red cabbage along with cinnamon and nutmeg .
Nutmeg is another spice that is great for digestion along with skin health. It also contains antioxidant properties and is one of my favourite Christmas spices!