Green may be the colour of Christmas trees, but it also represents healthy foods. We don’t always associate the festive season as being the healthiest when it comes to eating, but if we add green vegetables to the plate, we can certainly bag some great health benefits.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her three top green festive foods.
They may not be everyone’s favourite green vegetable, but they’re certainly top of the leader board when it comes to healthy greens. Plus, they’re the one vegetable that’s synonymous with Christmas, so surely must feature on your plate at some point, even if it’s just once a year.
Brussels sprouts are a worthy member of the brassica family, also known as ‘cruciferous’ vegetables. Their amazing health benefits can be partly attributed to a range of chemical compounds called glucosinolates, which help liver detoxification, hormone balancing (especially menopause symptoms) and may help reduce the risk of serious diseases.
They’re best not over-boiled, but lightly steamed to ensure they retain some crunch. Want to give Brussels some va va voom? Why not stir-fry them with bacon, or lemon and pine nuts?
From the same family as Brussels sprouts, when it comes to green vegetables broccoli carries equal acclaim in the health stakes. Indeed, all cruciferous vegetables including kale, cauliflower and cabbage can hold their heads high when it comes to health.
Broccoli contains the same compounds as Brussels sprouts, but also useful amounts of beta-carotene. The body converts thi into vitamin A as needed, which also supports the immune system. Broccoli also contains a wealth of antioxidants in the form of lutein and zeaxanthinin, These help protect against disease and are great for boosting eye health.
With broccoli, it’s all about the depth of colour. The darker green, purple, or deep blue-green the florets, the higher the content of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Deep colours in any vegetable or fruit represent anthocyanins, which also deliver superb antioxidant protection.
Over-boiling broccoli depletes its vitamin C content (not to mention taste and texture), so lightly steaming is best. Stir-frying with a little garlic, sesame oil and seeds is another delicious way to enjoy broccoli and adds a tasty twist to your Christmas dinner plate.
As with many fruits and vegetables, leeks have been used in traditional medicine for many years to treat several ailments. This includes sore throats (which is good news if you’re heading out to sing some Christmas Carols!)When it comes to Christmas meal planning, these green vegetables are not only delicious (especially with cheese sauce), but also high in the mineral potassium, which is good for the heart and kidneys. If you are after more energy to get you through the Christmas period, leeks are your friend, containing high levels of energy-giving folate.
For a Boxing Day treat why not add some leeks to turkey, cannellini beans and crème fraiche for an easy tray bake? Or make a delicious leek and potato soup.
The greener you go this Christmas, the more your liver, hormones and immune system will love you!