Posted By Stephen Birch

Posted on18th December 2014

The presents are open and the kids are playing with their new toys (or at least struggling to get into the packaging), the turkey has been in the oven since the early hours of Christmas morning and the sprouts have been cooking since October. It’s time to tuck in to perhaps the biggest meal of the year.

But, other than enjoying well cooked food and the company of family and friends, have you ever thought about the health benefits of what you are eating?

Let’s start before we even get to the dinner table. A handful of Brazil nuts are not only a delicious way to stop the hunger pangs and accompany an aperitif, they contain the mineral selenium which the body needs to avoid depression. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan which is essential for the production of the happy hormone serotonin.

On to the main event – bring on the turkey. Like Brazil nuts, both dark and white turkey meat contains tryptophan. It’s also a source of tyrosine which supports the production of adrenaline, which helps to prevent low moods and depression. Turkey is a great source of high quality protein and is naturally low in fat.

And for an extra serotonin boost, add a portion of broccoli or another leafy green vegetable packed full of vitamins B3, 6 and 12 which also aid the production of serotonin. Don’t forget the carrots either. Packed with carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein, these orange wonders help to protect vision and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

For the vegetarians, how about a nut roast or lentil bake? These are full of complex carbohydrates which, again, boost serotonin levels.

Using herbs and spices to add flavour also has its benefits. Many are full of antioxidants that help to fight a wide range of illnesses and health conditions. Antioxidants can be found in cranberries so don’t forget to add a spoonful of cranberry sauce to the side of your plate.

What about something sweet? While Christmas pudding and Christmas cake may not be particularly low in fat, the large volume of dried fruit counts towards our daily portions of fruit and veg and is high in nutrients and fibre. Cinnamon helps to control blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, while nutmeg aids digestion.

Finally, as the day draws to a close, why not treat yourself one last time with a cup of proper cocoa for a few more antioxidants and further mood enhancement – cocoa is brilliant for mimicking serotonin.

Is it any wonder we feel happy and content after a good Christmas dinner?

Everyone at Westfield Health would like to wish you a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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