Your Christmas diet may not be as bad as you think

Mulled wine-tasticWe all know the importance of a balanced diet and try very hard to be good (most days anyway!) so it adds to the occasion to indulge yourself a little at Christmas.

Despite best intentions, the indulgence gradually accumulates; starting with Christmas parties, canapés and quick present handover lunches with your friends, reaching its peak on Christmas day.

However, after a day or so of goose fat enveloped golden roast potatoes, syrup soaked sponge puddings and continued exposure to the Roses tin, we are all feeling the effects of these goodies and are seriously considering a drastic detox diet.

But wait, you may not have been as naughty as you think; many people eat much more fruit and veg at Christmas then any other time of year.

If you have a peek at other people’s shopping while patiently (!) waiting in line at the supermarket, you will notice many items which are missing the rest of the year. Family packs of mixed nuts jostle for space with dried fruit, satsumas, dates and the crimbo veggie favourites – the dreaded sprouts, the not so dreaded parsnips and good old carrots. There may even be some melon for a continentally inspired starter, or Iceberg lettuce for a seventies legend. Last but not least, there is the carton of orange juice for the obligatory bucks fizz on Christmas morning.

So, with a little more effort we can all up our fruit and veg quota and assuage our consciences just enough to put off the obligatory guilt until the New Year at least. Even if you just substitute a couple of bad things, or add one extra fruit to your diet you will be reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Heart Research UK has come up with the following tips to help you in this quest

  • Choose from the wide variety of different colours and textures available in the fruit and veg aisle at Christmas
  • Make your own cranberry and apple sauces so you can control the sugar content; cranberries are packed full of vitamins.
  • Start the day with a smoothie made from exotic fruits.
  • Serve vegetable crudités with dips, made by adding chopped onions, chives, or herbs to crème fraîche: a refreshing change from crisps.
  • Try some dried ‘superberries’ as an alternative snack.  Acai and goji berries are nutrient dense fruits that carry many health benefits.
  • Don’t just stick to cheese and sausages for cocktail sticks, try pineapple pieces, satsuma segments, dates, grapes and cherry tomatoes or you could make some mini dried fruit kebabs.
  • Mix red wine with orange juice or cranberry juice and add cinnamon and spices or a mulled wine sachet then heat gently. This will result in a healthier mulled wine and fill your house with a delicious Christmassy aroma.

We will definitely be trying at least one or two of these – already a big fan of the homemade mulled wine on Christmas Eve! Enjoy…


Can tomatoes fight Alzheimer’s?


Seol: Korean scientists have genetically modified tomatoes to produce a prototype vacinne against Alzheimer’s Disease.

The disease, kills brain cells when a sticky plaque known as beta-amyloid protein clogs up nerve connections.

And the disease, which starts with short-term memory loss and leads to death, is on the increase as people live longer.Current drugs do not prevent or cure it but only slow its progress.

The researchers from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology say they have genetically modified the fruit to create an edible vaccine that fires up the immune system to fight the disease.

To create the vaccine, the scientists combined the gene behind the beta-amyloid protein with the tomato’s genetic code.They then used mice to experiment with the designer tomatoes.

Blood samples taken from the mice revealed the tomatoes triggered their immune systems to release disease-fighting antibodies, although the levels of plaques in the brain were not reduced.

They said the tomato was a good way of getting a vaccine into the body because it was enjoyable to eat and could be eaten raw.The vaccine could be destroyed if the tomatoes were cooked, they added.

Tomatoes are already known as a natural antioxidant. They cut cholesterol and may help prevent some cancers (prostate, rectal and colon), protect against sunburn and are packed with vitamin C. The active ingredient is called lycopene which is responsible for the red colour.

Cranberry has more antioxidants than red wine

London: Research just published in The British Journal of Nutrition reveals that drinking a glass of light cranberry juice every day boosts good cholesterol and shields the heart with its unique antioxidant power.

Scientists have found the refreshing fruit juice delivers a dual benefit to boost heart health and has similar benefits to red wine. A clinical study by researchers at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, shows daily consumption of light cranberry juice increases the amount of “good” cholesterol in the body by 8% as well as providing strong antioxidant protection against bad cholesterol, a major cause of heart disease.

The findings add more benefits to long standing research already associated with cranberry juice including its ability to ward off urinary tract infections and potentially cut the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers.

This latest study indicates that cranberry juice improves circulation by increasing the level of high density lipoproteins (HDL), or good cholesterol, which carries fatty particles in the blood stream away from the heart.

Critical to the study was the product used in the research: Ocean Spray Cranberry Classic Light, a low sugar, high concentration (25%) cranberry juice drink.

Dr Charles Couillard, lead researcher of the study and a member of the Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods at Laval University said: “We found that by consuming a daily glass of light cranberry juice, the good cholesterol found in blood increased.”

He added: “An increase in HDL cholesterol is a sign that the arteries are clearing up the accumulated cholesterol,which is positive for heart health.The best way to prevent chronic disease is to adopt an active lifestyle, as well as better nutritional habits. Now drinking a glass of cranberry juice on a daily basis is certainly a good nutritional habit to adopt, but to maximise the benefits of drinking cranberry juice, you will need to get more active and also eat less fat.”

Another recent laboratory study at the William Harvey ResearchInstitute at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London found that a serving of cranberry juice each day could be as good for the heart as red wine.

Scientists tested cranberry juice drink, light cranberry juice drink (both at 25% concentrations), a California merlot and an Argentine cabernet sauvignon and found an average serving of cranberry juice drink was equivalent to a glass of red wine in their relative potential to prevent atherosclerosis – a condition that leads to thickening of the arteries and can result in a heart attack or stroke.

Reference: Favourable impact of low-calorie cranberry juice consumption on plasmaHDL-chloesterol concentration in men, British Journal of Nutrition (2006), 96, 357-364 Notes to Editors: Laval University conducted a 12 week study, looked at 30 men aged 18-70 who were slightly overweight, had an elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) level, were not taking medication and were given Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Cocktail (UK equivalent is Cranberry Classic Light) Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer with 125,000 deaths a year. According to the British Heart Foundation nearly half of all deaths from coronary heart disease in the UK are due to raised cholesterol, which is estimated to affect seven in ten adults. There are some 270,000 heart attacks in the UK each year while around 2.1 million people have experienced angina, the chest pain that is the main symptom of coronary heart disease.