Turkey is a traditional part of Christmas dinner and luckily it is also extremely good for you. Turkey is a great source of high quality protein, as well as being naturally low in fat – particularly when the skin is removed. Not only this, turkey is rich in vitamins B3 and B6 (important for brain health and energy production) and zinc and selenium (good for the immune system and skin). Furthermore, the festive bird is high in tryptophan, which can help to boost your mood.
Whether you eat them with sprouts, in a veggie-friendly nut roast or added to stuffing, chestnuts are a great way to boost your health at Christmas time. Unlike most nuts, chestnuts are surprisingly low in fat and also an excellent source of vitamin C. On top of this, chestnuts are a good source of protein, fibre and nutrients, including iron, B vitamins and folate.
Cranberry sauce is a staple of many Christmas dinners, so it may comes as good news to lots of us that the popular condiment is packed with antioxidants and nutrients essential for good health. Several studies have identified links between consuming cranberries and reduced risks of heart disease and breast cancer.
Many people claim to hate sprouts – perhaps due to their unappealing smell or appearance. However, if you can get past your aversion to this traditional Christmas veg, you could be doing your health a big favour. By tucking into your sprouts on Christmas day you will be filling your body with plenty of essential nutrients, including vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids (great for the heart and brain) and cancer-fighting substances, glucosinolates.
Carrots have long had a reputation for helping you to see in the dark, and it may be that this is not far from the truth. The vibrant vegetable is packed with carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein, which help to protect vision and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, as well as helping to protect against cancer.
Potatoes can get a bad press; however, the starchy veg is actually packed with immune-boosting vitamin C and the essential electrolyte potassium – yes, even when roasted. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that potatoes naturally contain chemicals called kukoamines which help to lower blood pressure, while the skins are rich in phytonutrients such as flavonoids which can help to prevent heart disease. So, no need to feel guilty for tucking into that second helping of spuds!
Parsnips are low in calories but high in fibre, making them a perfect healthy accompaniment to your Christmas dinner. Not only that, parsnips contain the antioxidant falcarinol which can to reduce cancer risk, and are high in folate, which reduces risk of high blood pressure and helps prevent birth defects in unborn babies.
If you fancy something sweet following your Christmas dinner, the good news is you can indulge yourself while still reaping some great health benefits. Christmas cakes and puddings may not be particularly low in fat, but a large proportion of their ingredients is dried fruit which counts towards your daily portions of fruit and veg and is high in nutrients and fibre. On top of that, they are packed with health-boosting spices such as cinnamon, which can help control blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, and nutmeg, which is good for digestion.
Many of us like to accompany our Christmas dinner with a glass or two of wine. However, while it is best not to drink too much (for your dignity as much as your health!), a little bit of vino could actually be good for you. Research has found that, when drunk in moderation, the antioxidants in red wine can help to cut heart disease risk, protect against cancer and fight against wrinkles.