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8 Surprising Nutritional Benefits in Your Festive Feasts

Check out our guide to the hidden benefits found in your favorite festive foods.

‘Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry! The holidays are a time for celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying festive indulgences. The good news is that although traditional dinners are often given a bad rap, the meal itself can be healthy. And while you shouldn’t be too focused on the number of calories consumed during this joyful time, it’s useful to be aware of what you’re eating.

Brussels sprouts

You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, but there are plenty of good reasons why your mother told you to eat your sprouts! Brussels sprouts are a good source of B vitamins and minerals like folate and magnesium. They are also high-fiber vegetables, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy. Plus, they’re low in calories.

*Tip – Roast Brussels sprouts with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some sliced red onion.

Cinnamon

Nothing evokes the smell and taste of the holidays more than cinnamon. But, it’s not just the aroma that is so powerful. This warming spice has some powerful potential health benefits, too. For example, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to fight pain. It can also help alleviate digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating, and gas. Furthermore, cinnamon has been shown to be valuable when helping to control blood pressure levels.

*Tip – Tasty ways to add more cinnamon into your diet include sprinkling over cereal/oatmeal, adding to your coffee, or using in a healthy baked apple dessert recipe.

Clementines

Portable, easy to peel, and cheap—what’s not to love about clementines?! Bursting with vitamin C, these tasty treats hit peak season in November. Another reason to keep these waistline-friendly fruits on hand is that they’re a good source of potassium, which helps to keep blood pressure under control. They also contain calcium that helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth. In addition, these small but mighty nutritional powerhouses contain folate, which is needed to form healthy red blood cells, and vitamin E, which promotes healthy hair growth.

*Tip – Brighten up your winter salads by adding segments of clementines in place of oranges.

Cranberries

This deep-red winterberry is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C essential for good health. Studies have also linked cranberries with reduced risks of heart disease and breast cancer.

*Tip – Opt for fresh cranberries vs. cranberry sauce to avoid the sugar.

Nuts

Rather than buying shop-prepared honey-roasted, dry-roasted or flavored nuts, which typically have a high salt and sugar content, pick nuts that are naturally low in saturated fat and calories. These include:

Almonds. Rich in calcium and high in protein, almonds are also a good source of copper, iron, zinc, niacin and vitamins B1 and B2. Eating a handful almonds each day to boost your vitamin E levels.

Brazil nuts. A festive favorite, Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, which can help protect against different types of cancer and heart disease. Two Brazil nuts per day provide the recommended amount of selenium.

Cashews. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, cashews are a great pick as they are rich in iron. They’re also rich in zinc, a mineral essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Chestnuts are a family favorite during the festive season and are packed full of healthy nutrients. They’re also lower in fat and calories than other types of nuts. Chestnuts are also an excellent source of manganese, which reduces risk for cancer and heart disease, and a good source of potassium, which we need for healthy kidneys.

Pistachios. These party-friendly nuts are a good source of fiber, calcium and iron. They also contain antioxidants, which can boost eye health and protect against macular degeneration.

*Tip – Instead of sausage-based stuffing, pick a recipe featuring chestnuts as the star ingredient.

Potatoes

The humble spud may have an unhealthy reputation, but they’re actually good for you. Potatoes contain a healthy dose of potassium, which helps improve blood pressure levels and maintain the nervous system. The starchy carb also contains other nutrients such as vitamin B6, which promotes healthy hair and skin, immune-boosting vitamin C, and are naturally fat-free.

*Tip – Leave the skins on when you cook them for optimum nutrition.

Smoked Salmon

Impress your guests with a sophisticated smoked salmon starter that’s high in protein and low in fat. The protein will help to keep you feeling full so you’re less likely to over-indulge. Smoked salmon is also chock full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are linked to lowering the risk of heart and Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3 acids can also help fight age-related macular degeneration that can cause blurred vision.

*Tip – Check the sodium content on the packet if you are watching your blood pressure and/or salt levels.

Turkey

Turkey is a good source of lean protein and is also low in fat. The festive bird is also rich in vitamins B3 and B6, zinc, and selenium. Furthermore, turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps to boost mood and induce sleep.

*Tip – Steer clear of the fatty skin and choose turkey breast to reap the highest nutritional benefits.

Sarah Larkin

About Sarah Larkin