As the festivities get underway, South Lodge Spa’s in-house nutritionist shares her advice on how to enjoy all the wining and dining whilst still managing some healthy eating at Christmas.
Christmas is a time to enjoy delicious food, but it is not always the most healthful time of year. However, it does not have to be this way; there is no reason you cannot relish your food whilst paying homage to its nutrient value. Here are “Twelve Nutr’isms of Christmas” to make your festive food that little bit more nutritious.
- Eat organic wherever possible. Organic foods have grown and flourished unaided by manmade chemicals so their composition is generally more nutrient-dense. When we then eat them, we benefit from their innate protection and their enhanced antioxidant and phytonutrient content. Just remember to wash the exterior, then they’re good to eat.
- If you make your own Christmas Cake / Pudding do not add excess sugar as a standalone ingredient as it may trigger undesirable “stickiness” of the blood; impairing blood flow, arterial health and exacerbating inflammation. The dried fruits will provide natural sweetness and are rich in essential minerals Iron, Magnesium and Potassium.
- Add a “pinch” of cinnamon or turmeric/curcumin to your vegetables or potatoes, (unless you are taking certain medications; anticoagulants, statins or liver medication). Cinnamon and turmeric/curcumin are abundant in antioxidants which are useful for neutralising inflammatory and corrosive “free radicals”.
- Keep the skins on your carrots, parsnips and potatoes, (unless you have a digestive condition impairing your tolerance and/or digestion of high fibre food). The skin is typically the most nutrient-dense part; containing up to 33% of a food’s fibre (supporting gut health) as well as being rich in vitamins and minerals. Just remember to wash the exterior, then they’re good to eat.
- If you can tolerate dairy, swap the custard/ice cream/cream on your Christmas desserts for live Greek yoghurt. The majority of live yoghurts are rich in protein, calcium and probiotics; the latter helping support the balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Yoghurt also often offers a more refreshing mouthfeel than its sugary counterparts.
- Eat high fat foods last. Of all the macronutrients, fat is the slowest to be digested therefore if you start a meal with “fatty foods” they sit in the stomach for a relatively longer time, which increases that “uncomfortable” feeling of fullness and may stifle optimal nutrient absorption.
- Chew your food. Chewing reduces the burden on the stomach having to break-down food into its component digestible parts and makes the process of nutrient absorption more efficient when food reaches the small intestine (where 90% of nutrient absorption takes place).
- When roasting your vegetables avoid using olive oil. Olive oil is full of beneficial omega fatty acids, however, it has a relatively low burning point which corrupts its structure. Whilst butter and ghee are high in saturated fats so should not be over-indulged in, their burning points are higher therefore their structure withstands higher temperatures. Butter also contains butyrate; a short chain fatty acid which is useful for supporting the integrity of the gut lining and enhancing immunity.
- If you think/know you will be drinking more-than-usual alcohol over the festive period, why not try alternating your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic options? Examples include lime and soda, mocktails or simply sparkling water. Alcohol is dehydrating and nutrient-depleting (especially the B-Vitamins), so alternating your drinks allows you to enjoy your festive tipples whilst halving the antinutrient effects.
- Try to avoid caffeinated food & drink after 3 pm. Caffeine may negatively affect your sleep-inducing hormone (melatonin) and sleep-receptors (adenosine) in the brain, which impairs the body’s internal clock – the Circadian Rhythm – thus making it more difficult to fall asleep; an asset needed to detoxify the body.
- Try to maintain a 12-hour overnight fast. This “rest & digest” period improves nutrient absorption as well as facilitating the gut’s migrating motor complex to “sweep up” and excrete any remaining food debris.
- Enjoy your food preparation – savour the sights, sounds and smells of it cooking. This kick-starts the Cephalic Phase which prepares the body for the process of digestion; principally stimulating saliva and stomach acid in readiness to receive a larger-than normal quantity of food.
NOT ALL THESE NUTR’ISMS WILL BE SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE. IF YOU HAVE ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS OR ARE TAKING MEDICATION, ALWAYS CONSULT A DOCTOR OR A REGISTERED NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST FOR A PERSONALISED CONSULTATION BEFORE MAKING ANY DIETARY CHANGES.
If you liked this post about healthy eating from South Lodge Spa’s in-house Nutritionist you can find out more at: The Spa at South Lodge
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