It’s the time of family get-togethers and gatherings with friends, which means filling our stomachs with different kinds of food.
As we celebrate this merry season partaking of sumptuous treats, here are ingredients ideal to be incorporated in our festive feasts.
Spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili, and cayenne facilitate digestion, lower blood lipid, and control blood sugar. They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may prevent some forms of cancer.
Herbs, to include parsley, dill, and coriander, as well as mint, basil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme, and rosemary enhance the effects of other ingredients. For instance, if a dressing contains marjoram, the antioxidant capacity is increased by 200 percent. Other options include onion, chives, bay leaf, lemongrass, and tarragon.
Coconut milk may be used as an animal milk substitute for soup, curry, cereal, and oatmeal. It contains lauric acid which boosts the immune system. It has anti-microbial effects and may inhibit cancer formation.
Whole grains such as rye, oats, barley, spelt, brown rice, buckwheat, wheat, corn, millet, and quinoa are rich in antioxidants, trace minerals, and compounds linked to disease prevention. They escape digestion in the small intestine and offer immune protection.
Fruits and vegetables’ plant pigments offer a wide array of benefits. Greens detoxify the body, restore energy, and boost the immune system; while blues and purples are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and help prevent cancer. Whites and browns keep the bones strong and are good for the heart, while reds reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease and improve skin quality. Oranges and yellows reduce risk of heart disease, improve immune function, and are good for the eyes.
Mushrooms contain protein, dietary fiber, vitamin D, and mineral selenium that lower cholesterol, and maintain normal blood pressure and circulation and digestive function. Conserve these nutrients by short cooking time or grilling to increase antioxidant properties.
Nuts and seeds are high in protein, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Its vitamin E has anti-aging and antioxidant effects. It contains unsaturated fat for cardiovascular defense and dietary fiber that flushes toxins in the gut. It promotes healthy bowel movement with high-water intake and fermentable carbohydrate for gut health.
Oily fish such as the body tissues and belly of salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, pilchards, kippers, eels, and whitebait are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These provide cardiovascular health benefits, lowers rheumatoid arthritis risk, may save from dementia, mouth, skin, breast, and prostate cancers, and reinforces vision and memory.
Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, antioxidants, and vitamins E and K. It contains the anti-inflammatory Oleocanthal and helps prevent bad cholesterol from being oxidized to avoid heart disease. Phenols from olive oil boost gut health and immune function.
Honey contains micronutrients. Sweeten your holidays by adding a few drops to vinaigrette; combine with equal parts of mustard and mayo for a honey-mustard sauce; honey and ginger to glaze salmon; or mix with yogurt and fruit for smoothies. To use honey in baking, add 1/2 cup honey to substitute for 2/3 cup white sugar. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup for every 1 cup sugar replaced. But for every 1/2 cup added honey, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit to not overbrown.
Do have happy, healthy feasts!
The author is a registered nutritionist-dietitian and a full-time assistant professor at the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.