The Christmas season is finally upon us! And what better way to welcome it than with some nutrient facts you may not have known about your festive favourites? We used the myfood24 food and nutrient database to look at the nutritional profile of some classic Christmas eats, here are some of the most nutrient-packed holiday dishes:
Possibly one of the most consumed dishes during Christmas: Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein containing essential amino acids (that the body is not able to synthesise itself), including tryptophan. After consumption, tryptophan is converted to bioactive metabolites including niacin (Vitamin B3), which is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Emerging research has found that serotonin plays an essential role in preventing inflammation and can strengthen the immune system. Turkey meat is also a great source of other B vitamins including B12. Research shows that vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation and helps prevent anaemia, it is also particularly important for maintaining cell functions and can prevent some birth defects.
The perfect pairing to your roast turkey is cranberry sauce. Whilst many shop-bought sauces are high in sugar, cranberries are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Cranberries are an especially good source of the compound proanthocyanin, which contain natural antibiotic properties that may help fight infection and prevent cancers. Why not try making your own cranberry sauce this year, as you can reduce the amount of sugars and preservatives in the sauce?
Potatoes are a Christmas dinner staple, whether you like them mashed, roasted, or boiled. Potatoes are rich in potassium, a mineral that can regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Evidence shows that potassium can also be effective in reducing blood pressure in individuals with hypertension, with no adverse effects on blood lipid concentrations.
Potato skins are also a rich source of vitamin C, which has a myriad of benefits, including collagen synthesis to support skin regeneration and antioxidant properties that can help regulate cell division and growth. So why not try roasting your potatoes with the skins on this year?
Like potatoes, brussel sprouts are also a great source of vitamin C but they are also particularly high in vitamin K, which has many nutritional benefits. Research shows Vitamin K can improve bone health, particularly in patients with osteoporosis, a condition characterised by weakened, fragile bones. Vitamin K also helps regulate the process of blood coagulation, which aids the conversion of certain coagulation factors into their mature forms. Vitamin K has also been used as a treatment for newborns with haemophilia. Avoid cooking your brussels sprouts for too long to prevent leaching and enjoy their full nutritional benefits!
A Christmas favourite, red cabbage can contain a lot of beneficial nutrients. Also rich in vitamin K and anthocyanins, red cabbage has been shown to support digestive and heart health, as it contains plant compounds that can help fight inflammation and enhance gut health. Tip: Look at the colour of the cabbage to find out if it’s still good to eat, greyish discoloured leaves are an indication it should probably be discarded!
Love them or hate them, no Christmas dinner would be complete without a Christmas pudding. Typically made up of a variety of citrus and dried fruits plus a combination of spices, the fruits in Christmas puddings are good sources of nutrients such as potassium, calcium and non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs). (Although bear in mind they can be high in sugar content).
Non-starch polysaccharides are a component of dietary fibres, which are the indigestible components of plant foods. Known for regulating bowel movements, strong research shows that fibre can help to reduce the risk of some diet-related diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
The Takeaway Message:
Enjoy your Christmas dinner!
Christmas comes around once a year so be sure to enjoy it. Where possible try to increase fruits and vegetables to consume lots of vitamins and minerals. Don’t be afraid to have treats too, just try to consume appropriate portion sizes and not overindulge too much. Everything in moderation is key.
All the nutrition information has been obtained from the myfood24 database, which is a robust validated database that is created, and quality checked by experts.