The festive period is all about eating, drinking and being merry, so what nutrients are in your Christmas feast? From the lean protein of turkey meat to fibre-rich sprouts, you can actually feel good about indulging this season. To mark Christmas Eve, let’s run through the dishes you’ll be bringing to the table tomorrow, and their health benefits.
Every year in the UK, we purchase approximately 10 million turkeys at Christmastime. Undoubtedly the star of the show, this lean white meat is packed full of protein. As well as this, it’s rich in niacin, an essential nutrient which lowers cholesterol, vitamin B6 which is essential for a functioning brain, and tryptophan which is used in the production of serotonin. It also contains a fair amount of B12 which can combat feelings of weakness and tiredness, and zinc which helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Turkey is also low in fat so you don’t have to feel too guilty about asking for seconds!
Undoubtedly the star of the show, this lean white meat is packed full of protein
Pigs in blankets
In a survey carried by OnePoll.com on the best bits of a Christmas dinner, pigs in blankets ranked second. A carnivore’s dream, they are small sausages wrapped in bacon. In a world where more and more people are cutting out meat for health reasons, you might not expect these to be good for you. It’s true that processed pork contains a lot of fat, but pigs in blankets do still have some unexpected benefits. Pork is a great source of selenium, an important nutrient for thyroid gland function and DNA production. These popular sausages also contain a decent amount of phosphorous which works with calcium to build bones, along with protein, zinc and B12.
Nothing beats a crispy roast potato – fluffy in the middle and slightly crunchy on the outside. Sadly, the most delicious roast potatoes usually don’t use the skin which is rich in fibre, and they’re often cooked in goose fat which adds calories to your plate. However, this particular fat is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which can lower cholesterol levels. Potatoes are also packed full of potassium which muscles need to contract and the heart needs to beat properly, and starch which converts into glucose for energy production.
Potatoes are also packed full of potassium which muscles need to contract and the heart needs to beat properly, and starch which converts into glucose for energy production
If you’re a veggie, you might be tucking into a nut roast on Christmas Day. Most of the time, this consists of nuts, grains, vegetable oils and butter, roasted in a long casserole dish. You can make this using nuts of your choice – all nuts have a different nutritional value. Cashews are excellent in terms of protein, iron and zinc, pecans may help with lowering cholesterol, while walnuts are a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids which lower inflammation. Roasted nuts do contain more calories than raw nuts, so you should only really have a handful a day – but it’s Christmas, so don’t hold back!
Love them or loath them, Brussels sprouts are full of goodness. They’re particularly rich in vitamin K which is vital for healthy bones and healing wounds, along with fibre which supports good gut health, and B vitamins such as folate which your body uses to make DNA, form red blood cells and grow and repair cells and tissues. Some studies also suggest that the high level of antioxidants in sprouts could protect against certain types of cancer, so if you’re not their biggest fan, give them another chance this year.
Some studies also suggest that the high level of antioxidants in sprouts could protect against certain types of cancer
Every Christmas dinner needs a sauce to bring it all together, and along with gravy from your chosen meat, cranberry sauce is a popular favourite. This tart, fruity condiment is amazing for you because cranberries are higher in antioxidants than other berries and lower in sugar than many other fruits. Some of their fantastic benefits include preventing urinary tract infections, improving digestion, boosting your immune system and preventing gum disease. We’d recommend making your own so you can control the sugar content and avoid additives.
This tart, fruity condiment is amazing for you because cranberries are higher in antioxidants than other berries and lower in sugar than many other fruits
We all need a sweet treat or two over the festive period, and according to tradition, you should eat one mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas to bring good luck. Most of a mince pie is made up of pastry containing flour and butter, so their fat content is quite high. They only contain around a spoonful of mincemeat filling which is generally dried fruit with suet, sugar and spices, so they tend to have a lower sugar content than other festive desserts like Christmas pudding. The raisins in mince pies contain a healthy serving of potassium and magnesium, and it’s best to enjoy them without cream to keep calories down.
The raisins in mince pies contain a healthy serving of potassium and magnesium, and it’s best to enjoy them without cream to keep calories down
Christmas Day wouldn’t be complete without rounding things off with a cheeseboard. Whether you prefer brie, Wensleydale and cranberry or cheddar, it’s no secret that the bulk of cheese is fat. But, it is also one of the best dietary sources of calcium, which helps bone health and dental health. Cheese may also boost healthy gut bacteria which could be positive for your blood cholesterol levels. It also has a lot of protein, which your body will use for building and repairing cells.
Cheese may boost healthy gut bacteria which could be positive for your blood cholesterol levels
Now that you know all about the nutrients contained in your Christmas dinner, you can enjoy it even more tomorrow! To find out which dishes are best for your own body, our NutriQlu test will give you a clear insight into foods you are intolerant or sensitive to, and any mineral and vitamin deficiencies you should be addressing. We’ll even give you dietary requirements so you can eat better and live healthier.
Merry Christmas from the team at Qlu Health!
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