Christmas is a time for socialising, enjoyment and celebration. You probably won’t be thinking about whether your meal is particularly healthy. You don’t have to because it is, so just enjoy it! So why is your Christmas dinner good for your health? The traditional Christmas meal of roast with all the vegetables and trimmings is incredibly nutrient-dense. It has plenty of macronutrients, micronutrients and flavonoids to keep us in tip-top health during the festive season.
There are a whole array of nutrients to support our mood, energy, memory (always good when the party games get competitive!), digestive health, cardiovascular health and blood sugar control. Even better, the Christmas roast is packed with nutrients to support alcohol metabolism and detoxification. For more details head over and read our blog ‘The Hangover Cure’. You don’t need to be hungover to benefit from efficient alcohol metabolism. In fact the more efficient it is the less likely you’ll suffer from a hangover.
Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan that is needed to produce neurotransmitters serotonin for mood and melatonin for sleep. Festivities can be tiring and your meat roasts whether turkey, beef, lamb or chicken contains carnitine. Carnitine is produced in the liver and transports fatty acids into the cells to be used for the production of energy. Turkey also contains B vitamins that support energy production plus zinc and selenium used in detoxification.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and is involved in the white blood cell functioning needed for immunity. Studies have also shown that low vitamin C status results in memory loss, hence vitamin C protects the brain through its antioxidant activity. If you want to win those party games pack in the veggies. High concentrations are found in parsnips, brussel sprouts, red cabbage and potatoes.
In addition to containing vitamin C, parsnips are also a prebiotic food. This means they provide probiotics with a food source. It is the Fructo-Oligo-Saccharide (FOS) content of parsnips that passes through the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and is digested by fermentation in the bowel. When microflora ‘feed’ on the FOS they produce by-products, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate that have an important role in the integrity of the intestinal wall. The integrity of the gut wall is important for our immunity and preventing allergies and food intolerances.
Brussel sprouts roasted with garlic
Brussel Sprouts also have high fibre content helping you stay regular. Sometimes when we eat rich foods we play havoc with our digestive systems so including plenty of fibre in your meal to keep you regular is definitely a benefit! Sprouts have high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants. Sprouts are part of the cruciferous family (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, sprouts) of vegetables and the high fibre content of these vegetables helps slow the absorption of sugar hence aiding in the stabilisation of blood sugar levels. Brussel sprouts also contain isothiocyanates that help protect our DNA from damage.
Brussel sprouts do have an overwhelming taste if not cooked well. A delicious way of cooking them is to roast them with garlic.
Red cabbage braised in red wine
Absolutely delicious cooked in red wine! The deep red colour is from the flavonoid compounds anthocyanins, that not only protect the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelial layer) but also help lower blood pressure. This blood pressure-lowering effect is via the mechanism of the anthocyanins stimulating the release of nitric oxide from the endothelial layer resulting in relaxation of the blood vessels and a corresponding lowering of blood pressure.
Potatoes roasted in goose fat
Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and if you are using sweet potatoes, they are also a source of the fat-soluble antioxidant beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycaemic load than white potato meaning a lesser impact on blood sugar levels helping avoid that mid-afternoon slump. Why roast in goose fat? It has a very high smoke point so there is no fear of oxidation and formation of carcinogenic substances. Also, it tastes absolutely delicious and it is Christmas after all!
Carrots roasted with fennel seeds
Carrots are an excellent source of the fat-soluble antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium and some B vitamins. Why not try roasting them with fennel seeds and a drizzle of honey? The essential oils in fennel seeds have a carminative action, meaning that they are beneficial in reducing digestive cramps and bloating. Not only will fennel spice up your carrots but will be a great digestive support.
When drinking alcohol remember to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated but to also replenish lost electrolytes. Alcohol intake increases urination and dehydration levels. Bacon contains sodium, an important electrolyte to be replenished. Potassium should also be replenished and this can be found in your carrots and potatoes.
Rosemary & Sage
Cooking with herbs adds flavour but also brings many health benefits. Both rosemary and sage have been shown to have a beneficial lowering effect on blood sugar levels. Christmas isn’t going to be just about the roast! We’re likely to be indulging in some sweet treats that could send blood sugar levels soaring. When this happens they then come crashing down again leaving us feeling lethargic and unable to leave the sofa. Having rosemary and sage in your lunch alongside the protein and fats from meat and fibre from the vegetables will be a benefit to help keep blood sugar levels stable. Rosemary and sage have also both been shown to improve memory.
Cranberries are a nutrient-dense food packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Maybe you’ve heard about their health benefits for urinary tract infections (UTI’s)? Hopefully, though that’s not why you’re eating cranberries this Christmas but rather for their delicious taste as an accompaniment to turkey! It is the antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PAC’s) that they contain that stops bacteria adhering to the urinary tract wall and hence their usefulness in UTI’s.
What about alcohol this Christmas? Can you enjoy it and still stay healthy? A moderate amount of alcohol has a protective health role. Red wine, in particular, contains resveratrol an antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease. So what about weight gain and alcohol? It is actually the effect on glucose and fat metabolism rather than the calorific content that causes problems. While the liver is busy detoxifying alcohol (for further detail see our blog) it impairs regulation of blood sugar levels. This makes us hungrier and reaching for those sugary snacks. In addition, if we choose alcohol with sugary mixers we increase our carbohydrate intake and impact blood sugar levels, again leading us to snack on more carbohydrates so enjoy your alcohol but choose wisely!
Do you want to learn more? Register for a free sample class
Follow us on Instagram for more nutrition tips.