With Christmas just around the corner and people gearing up to prepare the massive luncheons and dinners that make the traditional Christmas meal, it is necessary to know what it is that you are consuming. Though it may seem that your calorie count will be high during this time, the fact is that there are some ingredients of a Christmas meal that confer appreciable health benefits.
Cranberries – Cranberries as a side dish on Christmas is quite a tradition. Their sour flavour lends balance to both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as to drinks. Cranberry sauce, tarts, cakes, and muffins are a regular feature of Christmas meals. And there is cranberry sorbet too. They also go well with bread- or meat-based stuffing for the turkey. When bought, they should be plump, firm and red. Cranberries can be stored in the fridge for at least two months.
Cranberries top the list when it comes to high antioxidant content. They are best known for preventing the risk of urinary tract infection. High levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries help reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls which, in turn, fights off infections. Cranberries also prevent platelet build-up due to the polyphenols present in them that also prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Research has shown that cranberries are important in slowing tumour progression and have shown positive effects against prostate, liver, breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. They are also a good source of fibre and of Vitamins A and E; they also have Vitamin C which is known to be a powerful antioxidant and helps the body fight various infections by increasing its immune system. Fibre helps prevent coronary heart disease, obesity, stroke, hypertension, and also gastrointestinal disease.
Herbs – Some commonly used herbs for a Christmas meal are dill, thyme, cinnamon, rosemary, peppermint, and ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Though the main purpose behind adding herbs is for the enhancement of flavour, they also serve as great antioxidants. Dill, garden thyme, rosemary and peppermint also help fight cancer. Cinnamon, used most frequently in bakery products, works well against indigestion and nausea.
Ginger too has wonderful medicinal uses like increasing circulation, reducing inflammation, and relieving congestion, nausea, gas, and chills.
Nutmeg is another favourite holiday spice often used in cakes and pies. It is also a great digestive aid. To settle the stomach, add a small pinch of nutmeg to a cup of ginger tea. A glass of warm milk sprinkled with ground nutmeg is a relaxing bedtime drink.
Honey - While ham may not be the best option for your body, its honey coating will surely warm your heart. So if you're going to eat ham, perhaps honey-baked is your best bet. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that honey contains antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease. The findings were presented at the 2002 American Chemical Society's national meeting in Boston.
Honey has several other benefits: It helps prolong the freshness of meat products and guards against harmful by-products of meat oxidation that may increase the risk of heart disease, according to the researchers. The study also showed that the range of antioxidants in honey is comparable to that found in fruits like apples, oranges, strawberries and bananas. Of course, too much ham can be unhealthy no matter its honey content.