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Nutritious Christmas!!

Why Christmas can be GOOD for you!


As we get ready for Christmas – and its aftermath! – I thought it was time for a little encouragement.

So often we’re surrounded by messages of ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’, and at Christmas there seem to be so many messages flying around about how to do it all ‘right’.

Well, here’s one thing you can celebrate in advance: Christmas festivities can be GOOD for you!

Let’s look for example at the incredible health benefits of a traditional Christmas lunch.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the first thing we can pat ourselves on the back for is FAT!

As well as the ‘good fats’ we know about in avocado, salmon and olive oil – it is now widely established that saturated cooking fats like butter are also good for us. It might come as a surprise to some of you to hear a Nutritional Therapist say this – but recent research shows that saturated fats offer a host of important benefits. For instance, saturated fats are used to create the membrane of every cell in our body, as well as to form synapses and hormones, support the adrenal glands, and even strengthen our immune system.

Saturated fats are the best bet for baking and roasting because they don’t change their chemical structure under high heat. (By contrast, olive oil does, so it is better to reserve it for salads.) Fats in the ‘saturated’ or ‘cooking’ category include beef or lamb dripping, butter and ghee, goose fat, and coconut oil – but always use organic versions to avoid harmful additives.

Christmas turkey with trimmingsThe next thing we can be cheerful about is the traditional Christmas turkey. When reared free-range and organically, turkey meat is very high in protein and B vitamins, as well as selenium, which is important for healthy thyroid function.

Turkey’s high protein helps our bodies produce skin, hair, enzymes, antibodies, blood and nerves among other things. It also keeps you feeling full for a long time, ensuring that your blood sugar levels don’t spike too high during the lunch, or make you slump afterwards. Finally, turkey is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter called serotonin in the body. So, all being well, you will feel both full and happy after Christmas lunch!

We can easily forget that Christmas dinner is a great opportunity to enjoy vegetables. Don’t stint if you can help it – they are all brilliant for your nutrition, and there are so many delicious ways of cooking them.

Let’s have a quick look at the nutritional qualities of some favourite Christmas vegetables. We’ll follow the WHFoods rankings of ‘excellent’ and ‘very good’ for their value as nutrient sources.

Broccoli contains vitamins K and C, and helps the body to detoxify naturally. It is also the top vegetable source for the mineral chromium, which regulates blood sugar. It offers excellent amounts of folate, a B vitamin which is vital for blood, brain and reproductive health.

Brussels sprouts
Like all ‘cruciferous’ vegetables, brussels sprouts boasts plenty of glucosinolates and myrosinase enzymes that help prevent cancer. Along with plenty of fibre, these help the body to detoxify successfully.

Red Cabbage
Apparently red cabbage is the most nutritious kind of cabbage to eat – just right for Christmas time, when cooking it gently with cloves and ginger brings out its hearty flavours. Helpful for regulating bacteria in the bowel, it is also an excellent source of vitamin K, which promotes blood and bone health. If you’re taking vitamin D to help you cope with lack of sun this winter, vitamin K (as well as A and E) help to metabolise it effectively.

Christmas VegetablesCarrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A, a very good source of Vitamin C, they contain antioxidants (which help with cardiovascular health), and they are anti-inflammatory. And they even live up to their traditional reputation for supporting eye health!

Parsnips are a lovely natural source of sweetness. They offer high fibre and vitamin B. A slightly less starchy and sweet option, if you prefer, might be roasted or mashed Celeriac.

Sweet Potatoes
I generally prefer to use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Like carrots, sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of Vitamin A, and adding a little fat to them helps us to absorb it all the better. They also offer very good amounts of Vitamin C, and manganese, a mineral that supports skin, bone production and blood sugar control. So, amazingly, even this syrupy-tasting vegetable can help regulate blood sugar!

And finally, a fruit – cranberries
Cranberries are widely known and used as a cure for UTIs, thanks to their proanthocyanidins, which line our insides and protect against infection. They are also famous for their antioxidants, which help neutralise unstable molecules in the body.

In case any of you – like me – would be glad of some healthy Christmas recipes that don’t contain grains, dairy or refined sugar, here is a brilliant, free recipe collection, put together by Mickey Trescott. (She also wrote the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, an incredibly practical handbook for GAPS-style eating.)

In Mickey Trescott’s Christmas recipes pdf there is a good selection of ideas for vegetables, sauces, starters and puddings for the Christmas table – even a sugar-free cranberry relish.

So all in all, Christmas lunch can be an absolute catalogue of health treats – definitely something to celebrate! Happy Christmas!

Emma holds Nutritional Therapy clinics at the Bury Knowle Health Centre in Oxford and the Godswell Natural Health Centre in Bloxham, outside Banbury. Please do be in touch if you would like further information.

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