Five Fantastic Festive Foods – well, four, anyway!


This time of year sees shops swell with food that one hardly sees at any other time! As a bit of fun, we thought it might be interesting to see if any of them have health benefits… And the outcome is surprising! We’ll start with a couple of curiosities, then finish with a traditional Christmas gift…

Unlike any other nut, chestnuts contain vitamin C. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can aid digestion and, indeed, lower blood-cholesterol levels. The chestnut is also low in fat while offering copper, folic acid, magnesium and a range of vitamins, specifically B1, B2 and B6.

Ever get an irritating twitch in your eye? If so, it might be down to a magnesium deficiency. We’ve written a whole Info Sheet on that here. For now it’s enough to say that magnesium is essential for the wellbeing and functioning of your cells, tissues and organs…

There are other symptoms of magnesium deficiency. The list includes tiredness, muscle spasms and nausea. Some people find it surprising to learn, though, that the human body doesn’t produce this essential mineral! It’s something you need to provide through diet. Enter the humble walnut; a terrific source of magnesium! To find out how much magnesium you should be getting, and other ways to get it, be sure to read our full sheet here.

Brussels Sprouts
In one of last year’s crackers we found a joke that said, "How will Brexit change Christmas dinner for the better? No Brussels." Not really a joke worth repeating – but it does typify the bad reputation of the Brussels sprout! Does no one really enjoy them?! On the bright side, though, steamed Brussels sprouts are high in fibre. That means they can aid digestion and, indeed, help lower your cholesterol… Even if one of our friends does describe them as, "Hellacious little bullets."

We desperately wanted to be able to tell you that turkey is some sort of miracle meat! It’s not, unfortunately… That said, it does have some benefits. It’s absolutely worth adding here, though, that the skin of the bird is its Achilles Heel. The white meat of the turkey is somewhat lower in fat than the dark meat and so turkey is better for you when you remove the skin… Once skinless, turkey is a rich source of protein, iron, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. The bird also provides vitamin B6 and niacin, which help your body produce energy.

One only has to go back a few generations to find a time when it was customary to place an orange in a Christmas stocking. While the tradition probably began simply because the fruit was scarce – and considered a real treat – there is a more fanciful story…

It seems that, before he was made a saint and seemingly immortalised as Father Christmas, Bishop Nicholas of Bari donated some gold to a man so that he could afford his daughters’ dowries… Tossing the gold through an open window, it landed in a stocking that hung by the fire to dry. The gold melted and formed a small ball – and the custom of giving an orange stems from the fruit’s passing resemblance to that particular nugget!

Now, all that aside, how healthy is an orange? Well, just one of the juicy favourites gives you your recommended daily amount of Vitamin C, offering a boost to the immune system. Oranges also contain flavonoids which reduce cholesterol and help keep your arteries clear, improving your heart health. Meanwhile, the folate and folic acid in oranges are believed to promote your brain’s health and development.

So there you go! Some of that seasonal nosh isn’t quite as bad for you as some may have you believe! And remember: one of our Info Sheets even finds out how chocolate can be good for you! Take a look here and have a very merry Christmas!

Back in Shape cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Newsletter or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is always to pop in to see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.