There are 25 days until Christmas and that means there are 25 days to get fit and feel amazing in time for the party season.

Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and provides more nutrients, it therefore makes sense to use Christmas foods that are in season in December.

The twelve days of Christmas: Christmas food countdown

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On the first day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me. 

Brussel sprouts

The stuff of sulphuric smells when cooked badly. The humble brussel can be a detox delight, pushing the livers enzyme system to detoxify damaging compounds via sulphuric reaction. Great news for when you wish to counter balance the excess of the festive season.

Bacterial and viral infections will also be hit hard by the presence of Di-indolyl-methane, an effective immune modulator. If you usually eat Brussels cooked, try them shredded in a coleslaw, or in this delicious juice.

Green juice

– 2 apples
– 4 stalks celery
– 1 cucumber
– 6 brussel sprouts
– ½ lemon
– 1 inch fresh ginger

Put all ingredients in the juicer. Serve over ice.

On the second day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Cranberries

Tart and dry, like my mother-in-law this fruit has a sweeter side to it. Cranberries are known for their proanthocyanidins which prevent urinary tract infections. They are also rich in a range of phytonutrients, and the synergistic action protects against cancer, inflammation and free radicals.

Choose frozen or fresh fruit, or opt for the unsweetened dried fruit and steer well away from sweetened fruit juice. Try them as part of the Cavolo Nero Salad detailed below, or in a relish to serve with cooked meat.

Cranberry relish

– 2 cups fresh cranberries
– 1 pear
– 1 orange
– 1 apple
– 2 handfuls walnuts
– 4 stalks celery

Roughly chop larger fruit. Add all ingredients apart from celery to a blender and pulse until chunky. Transfer to bowl. Dice celery and mix well.

On the third day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Clemetines

Usually found at the bottom of the stocking and tossed aside in favour of presents. Naturally sweet and succulent, they are a perfect alternative to unhealthy desserts. Clementines are a good source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium and fibre. Vitamin C is necessary to produce collagen which declines with age, particularly during the menopause and assists ligament repair, following sports injury.

Try as part of a salad (see below Cavolo Nero). If you dare, eat some of the peel along with the fruit. Citrus fruit skin is rich in Limonene, a compound which has been shown to lower the risk of skin cancer…but be sure to choose organic fruit to reduce pesticide intake.

On the fourth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Walnuts

Also found at the bottom of the stocking and looking like tiny brains, these nutrient dense balls are the oldest tree food known to man. Walnuts are a super Christmas food, particularly for the athlete as they contain a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, arginine, as well as antioxidants, vitamin E and magnesium.

The 'get fit' Christmas countdown (24)_02

The amino acid arginine is converted to nitric oxide which is necessary to support the flow of blood and oxygen to muscles…need help with erectile dysfunction anyone? 

On the fifth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Turkey

A salmonella surprise when cooked from frozen. The run up to Christmas can be particularly stressful and sleep may be affected. Never fear, the turkey is here! This Christmas food contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin. Serotonin has a calming affect on the brain, thereby inducing sleep. The skinless white meat is fantastic high protein, low fat food.

Don’t waste the carcass though, as the bones can be used to make a nutritious bone broth. Bone broth is rich in collagen necessary for structural integrity in the body. (http://www.nutritionali-healthy.com/#!How-to-make-nutritious-Bone-Broth/c22d5/1774F70F-06D0-47DD-94D5-0776F4207F96). 

On the sixth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Cavolo nero

A dark and mysterious kind of kale, this Christmas food contains high levels of the antioxidant Lutein, which protects the eye from blue light. It may be of particular benefit in the prevention of macular degeneration. It also contains good levels of B vitamins, plus A, C and K and the minerals magnesium, iron, manganese and copper. Kale is great steamed with a garlic dressing, added to green juices, or in this fabulous salad…

Cavolo nero salad with turkey

– Big bunch of Cavolo Nero
– Juice from 1 clementine
– extra virgin olive oil
– 1 cup of walnuts
– ½ cup dried cranberries, unsweetened
– Turkey breast, cooked
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– Rapeseed oil

Wash, chop and dry Cavolo nero.

Mix Clementine juice and olive oil together to make a dressing and drissle over the Cavolo Nero. Toss.

Add walnuts and cranberries and leave to rest for 30 min.

Add some rapeseed oil to a frying pan and add turkey and garlic. Fry until thoroughly heated through.

Serve turkey with salad.

On the seventh day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Chestnuts

The only low fat nut, Chestnuts have a glossy brown shell and sweet starchy centre. They are a great source of molybdenum, manganese, copper and magnesium and are surprisingly high in vitamin C. Try an alternative to the chickpea hummus.

Chestnut hummus

– 1 cup chestnuts peeled
– 1 cup tahini
– 2 garlic gloves, minced
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 2 tablespoons pine nuts
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– Himalayan salt to taste
– Water

Combine chestnuts, tahini, garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt and place in a blender and pulse. Add water until smooth and thick.

Gently toast pine nuts

Transfer hummus to a bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts 

On the eighth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Pheasant

You no longer need to be a pheasant plucker, or a pheasant pluckers son, as these fine birds are sold ready prepared. Buying game birds ensures that the animal has had a natural diet, free from GM grains and enjoyed living and exercising outdoors which reduces stress hormones in an animal.

As opposed to chicken, this Christmas food has significant levels of iron, plus B vitamins, selenium and of course high levels of protein, making it a good meal choice post exercise. Female athletes need to be particularly careful to ensure adequate iron intake, so this is a good choice for them.

On the nineth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Mussels

Boasting impressive nutritional levels of zinc for a healthy immune system, iron for hemoglobin and long chain fatty acids to reduce inflammation and assist brain function. Mussels also provide a cheap and sustainable Christmas meal option. Avoid buying the ready packed and cooked mussels in plastic bags, these are a source of hormone disrupting chemicals, effecting both male and female health.

Choose fresh bags of mussels from the fishmonger, give them a wash and a scrub and remove the beard (the straggly hair). Throw away any mussels which do not close. Now they’re ready to cook. They can be simply steamed in their own juices in a pan with a lid, until they open (just a couple of minutes), or cooked in sauce etc. After cooking throw away any that did not open.

On the tenth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Beetroot

You either love them or hate them, but you can’t deny the nutritional powerhouse of the beetroot. Beetroot are a great detox food, supporting the liver with glutathione pathways of phase 2 conjugation. Beetroots contain betalains which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Beetroot is popular currently for its ability to provide dietary nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide helps to reduce blood pressure and improve athletic performance. For an endurance event, you will probably need the nitrates from a couple of beetroot, whereas just a small amount each day is needed to significantly reduce blood pressure. Make sure you buy beetroot with the leaves. Not only does this make it easier to check the freshness of the beet, it also provides you with an extra meal.

The leaves are actually the most nutritious part of the plant! They can be steamed as you would spinach, juiced, or added to salad.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Pomegranate

Remember when your mum used to give you a pin to pick the jewels out of a pomegranate? There are much easier ways to process the fruit now! I favour the ‘bashing the bottom’ method. Cut in half and hold half the fruit in your hand, then using a rolling pin, bash its bottom.

The seeds just drop out the other side. Pomegranates are another good choice for reducing blood pressure and act as an internal cleanse for the circulatory system. They are high in fibre, vitamin C and a good source of B vitamins (folate, B5 and pyridoxine). Pomegranate pairs well with both sweet and savoury dishes and can be added to salads, rice, couscous etc. For an alcohol free Christmas, try a pomegranate spritzer.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Nutritionist gave to me.

Mackerel 

We are probably all aware that oily fish are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and mackerel is one of the best sources, making it a useful food to protect the heart and fight inflammation. It has a good amino acid profile, particularly tryptophan, which as previously stated, is of benefit for raising serotonin levels and promoting sleep.

Mackerel is also a valuable source of Vitamin D, essential for the winter months when we are less likely to strip off and prance about in the sunshine. Vitamin D has a range of benefits including bone health, immunity, reducing asthmatic attacks, cognitive function and reducing inflammation. Try mackerel sashimi, as this sushi will protect the essential fatty acids which cooking will damage. 

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