It's all too easy to over consume at Christmas but there are some foods we really should be eating more of this month. Yahoo! Lifestyle nutritionist Rachael Anne Hill reveals why...
We've known for some time that nuts can help with weight loss due to their ability to reduce hunger and stabilise blood sugars but now a new study shows that they can also boost serotonin, a substance that makes you feel happier!
Studies at Loma Linda University in California also found that eating nuts five times a week (about 50 grams a day) lowered participants' blood cholesterol levels by 12 per cent. Go for the plain unsalted, uncoated varieties and don't overdo it. Just a small handful a day is all you need to provide all the health benefits without over consuming the calories.
2. Satsumas, Clementines and Tangerines
Forget all those expensive time release vitamin C capsules. Vitamin C is water soluble therefore it can't be stored in the body, however a satsuma, clementine or tangerine eaten morning and afternoon will provide more than enough immune boosting, disease zapping, bug busting, skin enhancing vitamin C to get you through the day.
The orange family also contain a compound called hesperidin which has been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. However, most of this phytonutrient is found in the peel and inner white pulp of the orange so make sure you eat the whole fruit rather than just drinking the juice.
3. Mulled Red Wine
Red wine is a good source of antioxidants which mop up the destructive free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to disease. Heating the wine helps to cook off some of the alcohol too and all those spices, particularly the cinnamon (see below) contain powerful anti-inflammatory polyphenols which when consumed regularly may help lower your risk of diabetes. Just don't over do it!
Seasoning a high carb food with cinnamon can help lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels. This is because cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals which in turn reduces the rise in blood sugar after eating, helping you to feel fuller and energised for longer.
Turkey thigh and breast are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, including niacin for a healthy nervous system, Vitamin B6 for efficient blood cell formation, phosphorus for strong bones and teeth and selenium for a healthy immune system. A 100g portion of turkey breast contains over half an adult's recommended daily intake of niacin and nearly half the recommended daily intake of vitamin B6. Turkey is also low in fat so don't just save it for Christmas dinner. Use it in your sandwiches, stews, stir fries and curries too.
6. Brussel Sprouts
If ever there was a super food this is it. Not only are Brussel Sprouts a better source of glucosinolates ( an extremely powerful cancer preventing nutrient) than dark leafy green veg, cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli they also contain a type of fibre that mops up excess cholesterol enabling your body to excrete it from your system. They are a great source of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E which keep your immune system strong and your wrinkles at bay and they even contain some essential fatty acids. In fact, just 100 calories' worth of Brussels sprouts provides over 400 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is more than one-third of the daily recommended amount.
Cranberries are a great source of cold preventing vitamin C and fibre and contain just 45 calories per cup. As disease-fighting antioxidants go, cranberries outrank nearly every fruit and vegetable except blueberries. Squeeze them into your diet this December by adding semi-dried cranberries to your breakfast cereals, cakes, muffins and cookies, drinking cranberry juice either on its own or mixed with fresh orange juice and don't forget to make your own cranberry sauce by boiling fresh cranberries with a little sugar, fresh orange juice and a bit of freshly grated ginger. Delicious with baked potatoes, in turkey sandwiches as well as with your Christmas dinner.
Okay, we've already mentioned nuts but these little nutritional powerhouses are worth credit all to themselves. Not only are they much lower in calories than most other nuts (100 grams of walnuts contain over 650 calories, chestnuts have only 170) they are a surprisingly good source of fibre too with around six to eight milligrams of insoluble fibre in every 100 gram serving. They are also the lowest fat nuts around with only around 2 grams of fat per 100 gram serving and they are a good source of vitamin C.
Buy them frozen, fresh or tinned and use them to make soups, sauces and stuffings. Slice them onto salad or vegetable dishes for extra crunch or eat them just as they are freshly roasted.