'Tis the season to over-indulge, right? Not necessarily. Although for many people, Christmas is about eating too much rich food and letting health go out the window, this doesn't need to be the case.
There are plenty of Christmas-friendly ingredients that can keep you healthy and happy throughout the festive season. Here, we look at a few of our favorite options and their health benefits.
There is nothing tastier than fresh seafood. However, it isn't just tasty, but incredibly healthy, too. Seafood can be an excellent source of protein, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. It can keep you fuller for longer, boost your immune system and keep your body full of nutrients.
So, if you live on the coast or in a warmer climate, consider using seafood as a healthy protein source. Live far from fresh? You can still get plenty of benefits from tinned sardines or smoked salmon at lunch time.
For many, it's just not Christmas without a Christmas turkey. Luckily, this is one of your healthiest protein sources around. Turkey is packed to the brim with tryptophan, which is why you feel sleepy after a good dose. Tryptophan can help you sleep better, but it can also improve your mood, thanks to its ability to boost happy neurotransmitter production.
So, if the lack of sunlight has you feeling gloomy, add leftover turkey into your lunches for a few days after a Christmas feast for a bonus boost of happiness. It goes great cold in salads and sandwiches.
These tart little bursts of goodness are more than just a tangy addition to a Christmas dinner. In fact, they are one of the best sources of health-giving antioxidants on the planet! Helping in everything from urinary tract health to anti-cancer immune boosts, it is one of the healthiest fruits you can choose at Christmas.
Try making your own cranberry sauce instead of store-bought options, so you can keep the sugar content a bit lower. If you can access fresh cranberries, chuck a few in a salad for a tangy flavor hit.
Roasted vegetables are always the best accompaniment to a roast dinner, and for good reason. These slow-cooked root vegetables, including turnip, carrot, sweet potato and beetroot, offer a variety of benefits. They're packed full of fiber, slow-release carbohydrates and antioxidants.
Drizzle them with coconut or olive oil to help them crisp up nicely. You can also use leftovers chopped up in a roast vegetable salad the next day. Simply toss through with some green leafy vegetables and some protein.
So many people grew up hating brussel sprouts, but they are some of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. They are part of a group of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables, which have unique health properties. Brussel sprouts can boost immunity and detoxification, protect the body against cancer and act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
All of these health benefits in one little package surely make it worth re-trying your taste buds on these balls of goodness. The trick is to not over-cook them; if they are over-cooked, it brings out the bitter taste. Consider flash-frying them with some bacon instead.
It can get pretty chilly for many people over the festive holidays. However, by adding in a nice dose of ginger to your cooking, you can stay warmer all night long. Ginger boosts circulation, as well as acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain-killer.
Ginger is also incredibly versatile. It can be added to either sweet or savory dishes. You can also add a slice or two of fresh ginger into your teas, chai or hot chocolate when the weather is particularly cold.
Whipping up a tasty sweet treat? Adding in cinnamon will boost the flavor and the health-giving properties. Cinnamon can help to reduce inflammation in the body and balance out blood sugars, so you can indulge in a sweet treat without as much damage.
Don't think that cinnamon is only able to be used in desserts and sweet treats. It can go beautifully in savory dishes, as well, bringing a warm and earthy flavor to the recipe.
Peppermint is one of the best known flavors of the holiday season, but there's much more to it than just candy canes. Peppermint is the perfect herb to add into your Christmas dishes, as it supports digestive function. It's believed to help in everything from bloating to nausea.
If you feel like you've over-indulged and your tummy is grumbling, peppermint is your friend. Simply twist a few fresh leaves up in your fingers, pop it in a cup and cover with boiling water. This refreshing tea will soothe your stomach and leave you feeling less bloated.
Another rich, warm spice that goes beautifully in Christmas dishes is nutmeg. This mild spice offers benefits including anti-bacterial properties and digestive supporting properties. It can relieve gas and indigestion, making it ideal over the indulgent Christmas time.
Nutmeg is traditionally added into sweet dishes and desserts, however it can also go into soups, curries and stews to add a rich earthiness.
Also known as string beans or snap beans, these unassuming long beans are packed full of nutrition. They're an excellent source of fiber, as well as supplying a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all in one tasty package. This makes them an excellent choice for a side dish if you're trying to keep the calories down at Christmas dinner.
Remember, green beans only taste bad if you over-cook them! Boiling them can seep a lot of the taste and nutrition out into the water. Why not try sauteing them in some oil and spices instead?
Christmas might be a time about celebration, family and fun. But that doesn't mean that you need to neglect your health. By basing your choices and menus around these Christmas-friendly ingredients, you can have a happier and healthier festive season.