18th December 2017 / Gabriela Czwarnos
It’s definitely more ‘naughty’ than ‘nice’ when it comes to our food choices during December, but don’t just think of the obvious sugar-loaded treats such as gingerbread, boxes of festive chocolates or mince pies. There are plenty of ‘hidden’ calorific sins to be found in butter sauces, stuffing, creamy Baileys and food-of-the-season, pigs in blankets. Not to mention all the prosecco and champagne… it’s no wonder the average Brit puts put on 4.5 pounds during the party season, according to research.
But what if we tell you that on your Christmas dinner table you can find healthy superfoods? We’ve asked Nutritionists to give us their 5 top healthy choices:
“Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that are packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and magnesium. As a valuable source of glucosinolates, they protect our DNA from damage. They can also help to avoid the mid-afternoon slump on Christmas Day, as they are packed with B Vitamins which are essential for energy.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and will leach into the water if you cook sprouts for too long. Try steaming them instead to keep in their goodness and add nutmeg for Christmas twist”, says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist.
“Cinnamon is one of nature’s most revitalising herbs. Filled with potent antioxidants – more than almost any other spices and herbs – it may help to reduce signs of ageing, boost metabolism as well as aid digestion, gently warming your stomach, supporting the breakdown of your food more efficiently”, explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist.
Do you have a sweet tooth? ‘Cinnamon is also great for reducing sugar cravings. Add some to a cranberry, pear and clementine juice for a festive pick me up on the go. You can also combine it with spinach or kale for a super shot of festive green goodness’, adds Wilkinson.
“Nuts are packed with goodness – high in essential nutrients especially minerals and vitamins. They are also protein-rich so are broken down more slowly and therefore stay in the stomach longer, making us feel fuller and wanting to snack less.
They also help to balance your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which is an essential part of healthy weight loss and management. Nuts are high in calories, so don’t gorge on them, but allow yourself a healthy decent handful a day. Make sure they’re raw and unsalted to get the maximum benefit from the delicate oils they contain”, says Dr Glenville.
“Turkey is a great source of lean protein. It is also low in fat and low in calories – ‘turkey is also high in selenium, which supports your metabolism, zinc that helps to boost our immunity and vitamin B6, an essential for energy production”, explains Wilkinson.
Do you often feel like snacking? “Carb cravings are a sign of low levels of the amino acid – tryptophan, which is necessary for the serotonin production, a ‘happy’ brain chemical. It plays a crucial role in sleep and wake cycles as well as digestion. A lack of it can lead to low mood and anxiety. Instead of reaching for stodgy carbs go for turkey – it’s packed with tryptophan”, says Dr Glenville.
Mulled red wine
Red wine is a good source of resveratrol… as if you need an excuse to have a glass. Just don’t overdo it! This powerful antioxidant, which can be found in the skin of red grapes, berries, cocoa and red wine, is produced in plants to defend them from invading microorganisms.
It can not only protect you from damaging free radicals, but it also boosts cell replication by promoting a healthy, inflammatory response in our body which delays the premature ageing process and turns excess flab into calorie-burning ‘brown fat”, says Michela Vagnini, Nutritionist at Natures Plus.