Watching TV celebrity chefs show us their latest Christmas recipes fills us with cosy festive feelings, even inspiring us to do some cooking ourselves. But a new study shows that many recipes by celebrity chefs are actually less healthy than ready meals and should even be viewed after the 9pm watershed. So as the days of seasonal gluttony commence, let’s forget posh celebrity recipes and just celebrate the simplicity of 10 unadorned Christmas foods that are, in their purest forms, very good for you.
- Turkey – At just 2g of fat per 100g slice you can afford to indulge in this quintessential festive bird. An excellent source of quality protein, turkey also contains high levels of niacin, zinc and selenium (great for the skin and immune system) and vitamins B3 and B6 (good for energy and brain health). What’s more, its high levels of tryptophan will help to boost your mood so you can maintain your jolly Christmas spirit all day long!
- Chestnuts – If you’re going to snack then these are the ideal choice. The only low-fat nut, chestnuts are an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as providing protein, iron, B vitamins and folate, important for preventing birth defects, heart disease and reducing depression. Chestnut stuffing is a healthy alternative to rich sausage meat versions, and more traditional too.
- Brussels sprouts –love them or hate them, Christmas dinner wouldn’t be quite right without sprouts on the plate, even if they’re not on yours! As inelegant as these green little balls look, they actually contain a nutrient-rich feast of folic acid and vitamin C, as well as incredibly powerful cancer-fighting properties called glucosinolates. Studies done at the Norwich Institute of Food Research show that even an occasional meal with sprouts will have worthwhile benefits.
- Mulled wine – Enjoy a festive glass of mulled red wine and the high antioxidant levels will help to mop up any cellular damage caused by over-indulging. The added spices of cloves and cinnamon have the highest levels of polyphenols (anti-inflammatories) of any spice and recent studies show the warming winter wine can also inhibit cancer cell growth. There’s a great excuse for a cheeky tipple!
- Parsnips – this strong tasting root veg is full of nutrition so pile them high on your plate. Containing twice as much fibre as carrots, parsnips are a great source of folate, which reduces blood pressure. What’s more, they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and are low calorie (as long as you don’t add the fat!)
- Red cabbage – brighten your plate with a cup of this colourful vegetable and enjoy its high concentrations of fibre, free-radical fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants. Containing among the highest vitamin levels of all vegetables, a cup of traditional braised red cabbage will give your 10 times more vitamin A than green cabbage.
- Tangerines. The ubiquitous Christmas orange, tangerines have got it all wrapped up. Plenty of research shows the fruits have amazing levels of immune-boosting vitamin C and cancer fighting properties. Furthermore, the orange family contains compounds which lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Overall, there’s lots of reasons why we should snack on tangerines year-round.
- Cranberries – reaching for a handful of dried cranberries or cranberry juice rather than biscuits or sherry will give your body a real treat. Bursting with antioxidants and nutrients, including high levels of vitamin C, these delicious berries are a natural way to boost your immune system and detoxify the body. Some studies have identified links between eating cranberries and reduced risks of urinary tract infections in women, breast cancer and heart disease. So spoon on a generous dollop of cranberry sauce with your turkey this Christmas, guilt-free.
- Dates – Although sometimes considered a high-sugar snack that can rot your teeth, dried dates are actually highly nutritious. A rich source of iron, calcium, essential minerals and vitamins A, E, K and B6, they are also traditionally considered to be a libido-booster. Moreover, if you are prone to digestion problems like acidity or heartburn problems then dates are an ideal choice over Christmas, especially eaten at night before you go to sleep to aid overnight food transit. The many benefits make it understandable why people from the middle east consume these sticky fruits daily.
- Walnuts – Packed to the brim with antioxidants and beneficial fats, walnuts are top of the nut chart when it comes to health benefits. Just 7 walnuts a day may help to combat the damage done to the arteries done by fatty foods, according to several studies. High levels of the antioxidant polyphenol have anti-cancer properties and will also help lower cholesterol. Great reasons to make this cracking Christmas nut something you should make a habit of eating all year round.
You really don’t need to produce rich, extravagant celebrity recipes to enjoy your Christmas food. Just make the effort to buy seasonal food, eat it plain or cook it traditionally and you can’t go far wrong. Now go and enjoy some festive food without an ounce of guilt!