Have a healthy Christmas

Christmas lunch

Christmas lunch - Credit: Matthew Usher

Christmas is the one time of year when we allow ourselves to over-indulge – with the inevitable pledges to detox and get fit as soon as the new year dawns.

However, according to Norfolk nutritional therapist Glen Matten, some of our favourite festive foods are not as unhealthy as you might think.

“The only reason Christmas isn’t so healthy is because we consume too much. When you stop and actually look at a lot of our ‘staple’ Christmas favourites, they rank as healthy foods,” he says.

Here are Glen’s top 10 healthy Christmas foods:

Turkey: Turkey packs a high protein content, but unlike red and processed meats, only has minimal amounts of cholesterol-raising saturated fat. Lean protein foods like this are actually a good food for anyone wanting to shed some pounds as the high protein content means it’s satiating – leaving you feeling fuller for longer.

Potatoes: Okay, so the potato’s high Glycemic Index means they act like a “fast” sugar, releasing energy rapidly into the bloodstream leading to unwanted surges of insulin to deal with it. But I’ve just discovered Purple Majesty potatoes, which are purple and packed full of beneficial plant compounds called anthocyanins – just as you would find in berries such as blueberries.

Brussels sprouts: Hailing from the cruciferous family of vegetables, Brussels sprouts are a rich source of glucosinolates, that get converted in the body into active compounds called isothiocyanates, which show cancerprotective properties.

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Red cabbage: Red cabbage is also from the cruciferous family of veg, but has another string to its bow – the anthocyanins that are responsible for its purple-red hue. These are like the compounds we find in berry fruits, which researchers believe have lots of potential benefits, including cardiovascular health and cancerprotective properties.

Chestnuts: Nutritionally speaking, chestnuts are quite different to other nuts, being much higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat. But they are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and B-vitamins.

Nuts: Yes they are full of fats, but good “unsaturated” fats. If you’re looking for a heart-healthy, cardio-protective food, here it is. Regular consumption of nuts is associated with an impressive reduction in risk of heart disease, so get cracking!

Mulled wine: All those lovely spices pack a mighty antioxidant punch and are brimming with beneficial plant compounds. The red wine, in moderation, is also cardio-protective, with regular, moderate amounts linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Here’s to good times!

Chocolate: There is growing evidence that the cocoa bit of chocolate is good for us, especially our cardiovascular health. That’s all down to potent plant compounds called cocoa flavanols. But if its health benefits you want, the darker you go, the better.

Eggs: If you start the festive days with a cooked breakfast, give eggs centre stage. Mistakenly maligned for their high cholesterol content, they are packed full of protein and are the perfect “fuel” to keep you feeling fuller for longer. The yolks also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, thought to offer protection against eye diseases later in life.

Salmon: Smoked salmon gives me licence to expound the virtues of oily fish. There is ample evidence that the omega-3 fats found in oily fish like salmon play an important role in keeping our cardiovascular system healthy,

benefit our brain, not to mention keeping inflammation in check.

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