We all love Christmas. The feeling of joy and the colourful bright lights on tall Christmas trees signal the coming to an end of a great year and the start of something wonderful. Christmas has always been known as one of the most indulgent time of the year. Most of us, even those who are usually conscious with our eating choices will find it hard to resist the temptation and often eat more than usual. Amid the myriad of holiday dinners and gatherings, we can still make our meals healthy and wholesome by including some of the famous superfoods around.
Turkey is a staple when it comes to Christmas dinners. Turkey breast is leaner and lower in calories compared to chicken and provides a good source of protein with lower fat content. Getting enough protein is important to maintain lean muscle mass and to help keep insulin levels stable after meals. It is one of the top ten foods with the highest amount of selenium important for reproduction, thyroid and cardiovascular health. Studies showed that selenium plays a role in cancer prevention due to its effect on DNA repair and antioxidant property. Our body uses Tryptophan, an important essential amino acid found in turkey meat to produce niacin, serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that creates feeling of well-being and relaxation. The hormone melatonin prepares the body for a good night sleep, strengthen our immune system and slows down cellular aging.
This much-loved Christmas condiment is loaded with immune-boosting Vitamin C and phytonutrients. It out ranked blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, spinach, broccoli and even red grapes in terms of its disease fighting antioxidant content. A study revealed that consuming cranberry juice lowered the incidence of urinary tract infections in women who had previous history of infection. Polyphenolic compounds found in cranberries also have anti-inflammatory properties with studies showing potential cardioprotective effect.
Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. In the first century CE, Europeans treasured the spice so much that they paid 15 times more for it than silver. It contains rich antioxidant properties important to fight against free radicals and inflammatory damages that can cause metabolic diseases and age-related disorders. The distinct smell and earthy flavour of cinnamon is due to a compound called cinnamaldehyde, known for its anti-tyrosinase activity that help prevent hyperpigmentation. This cinnamic aldehyde oil has strong anti-fungal activities and fight candida infections naturally by our boosting immune system. Cinnamic aldehyde and cinnamyl aldehydes in cinnamon can also reduce muscle soreness. Several studies have also proved that cinnamon extracts can lower our blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels and is cardioprotective.
Brussels sprouts are a perfect winter vegetable as they are packed with immune boosting vitamin C important for wound healing, protecting our cells and maintaining a strong immune system. They are a great source of folic acid, potassium and fibre. Neema Savvides, a nutritional therapist at the Harley Street Fertility Clinic believes that consumption of brussel sprouts can boost fertility due to its high folic acid content which increases sperm count and help line the wombs with the right nutrients raising the chances for survival of sperms. Folic acid also reduces the risk of miscarriages and birth defects. Known as part of the ‘brassica’ family, these vegetables are great at helping the body detoxify any potential toxins, a must for this time of the year! Keep a note however that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and will leach into the cooking water if cooked for too long. Best to cook them quickly in boiling water for a few minutes or until tender.
Have an important meeting or a big test coming up? Dark chocolates rich in flavanols and have been shown to give your brain a boost and increase alertness for up to three hours by increasing blood flow to key brain areas. A preliminary study done found that participants who consumed dark chocolate experienced enhanced visual performance such as detecting motion and reading low contrast letters likely due to the increased in blood flow to the retina and brain. Flavanols also possess significant photoprotection and can be effective in protecting us from the harmful UV rays. Munching dark chocolates can help boost levels of endorphins and serotonin making us feel good, lower our stress levels and improve immunity.
With so many different food choices around us, we very often wonder what we should consume. It is not enough to just educate ourselves to refrain from GMO products, to eat organic local produce or to follow a general diet that is acceptable by others because we are all different. What makes us so diverse and unique is largely due to our genetic makeup and how our body responds to all these different nutrients and minerals. Doing a basic genetic testing like OriVit would be able to help give you information on which class and type of foods that you should consume more often of base on your own unique genetic response.