Ho ho huh? Festive hamper of studies makes case for nutritious Xmas spread

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

This Christmas, turkey is your best bet for a great source of vitamin B (B6 and niacin). It's also a great food for iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.©iStock/AlexRaths
This Christmas, turkey is your best bet for a great source of vitamin B (B6 and niacin). It's also a great food for iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.©iStock/AlexRaths

Related tags Vitamin Nutrition

In the run-up to the holidays a number of studies have suggested the traditional Christmas dinner is as much a health-enhancing feast as it is an indulgent one.  

NutraIngredients presents a quick round up of Christmas-food related research to ensure the end of 2016 is as happy, healthy and nutritious as possible.

First up, researchers have concluded that a clear link can be made between vitamin B, the immune system and depression in a literature review​ that looks back at publications from 2008 to 2016.

While eggs and fish are normally associated with this nutrient, the turkey on the table is the prime source of this vitamin at this time of the year along with salmon and beef.

The review specifically looks at the role of vitamin B on the immune/cytokine network in relation to depression, which a poor intake of micronutrients can lead to its dysregulation.

Researchers from Victoria University in Australia were confident that a deficiency in B vitamins resulted in symptoms of depression, thus affecting health and well-being of individuals.

“Supplementation of B vitamins improves symptoms of depression,”​ they concluded.

“In addition, B vitamins play a role in regulating immune responses. In patients with depression, pro-inflammatory responses are noted. Hence, there is an inter-linked relationship between vitamin B, the immune system, inflammation and depression.”

The vitamin B family includes eight members consisting of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12.


Meanwhile red cabbage, though not everyone’s favourite vegetable at any time of the year, are a prime example of a microgreen—tender, immature plants that take weeks to develop before being harvested.

Now a study​ has hailed the microgreens’ cholesterol-lowering polyphenols and glucosinolate content that outdoes its older version.

Previous work has discovered that red cabbage microgreens contained approximately 260-fold more β-carotene, more than 40 times more vitamin E, and 2.4–6-fold higher vitamin C levels than previously published for mature red cabbage.

The baby plants were also found to help lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and liver triglyceride levels.

Tests on mice fed either a high or low fat diet, and with or without either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage, found both the microgreens and mature cabbage diets reduced weight gain and levels of liver cholesterol in the mice on high-fat diets.

Polyphenols and glucosinolates are known bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables, including Brussel sprouts.

For total glucosinolate content, Brussels sprouts are placed near the top of the list. The vegetable’s total glucosinolate content rivals that of mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli.

Nut roast

mixed nuts, Droits d'auteur tashka2000
Don't roast your nuts if you want to get the full dose of nutrients this Christmas. ©iStock/Tashka2000

Finally, while Nat King Cole recommends roasting chestnuts by the open fire, German scientists might give you a disapproving look.

The team’s study​ found roasting had a diminishing effect on thiamine, carotenoids and tocopherols, especially in almonds and walnuts.

“Nuts could make a valuable contribution to a healthy diet in regard to lutein/zeaxanthin and tocopherols,”​ they said.

“A reduction in micronutrient content by roasting is reliant on the nut variety and specific micronutrient.”

Roasting conditions ranged from a minimum 140 °C for 25 min to 160 °C for 15 min for almonds, pistachios and macadamia and up to 170 °C for 15 min for walnuts and hazelnuts,

The team from the University of Jena in Germany found that roasting decreased thiamine significantly in almonds (−52%) and walnuts (−23%) at 140 °C and even more at 160/170 °C (−84%, and −66%).

Roasting also resulted in a moderate decrease of thiamine in hazelnuts (−25% at 160/170 °C) and macadamias (−17% at 160/170 °C) and a negligible reduction of thiamine in pistachios (−11% at 160/170 °C).

Roasted almonds and walnuts showed significantly lower lutein/zeaxanthin (−34% and −39% at 160/170 °C) levels than the respective unroasted nuts,

The high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in pistachios and hazelnuts were not affected by roasting.


Source: Maturitas

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.11.012

“The effects of vitamin B on the immune/cytokine network and their involvement in depression.”

Authors: Vasso Apostolopoulos et al.


Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry

Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b03805

“Red Cabbage Microgreens Lower Circulating Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Liver Cholesterol, and Inflammatory Cytokines in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet.”

Authors: Thomas Wang et al.


Source: Food Chemistry

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.065

“B-vitamins, carotenoids and α-/γ-tocopherol in raw and roasted nuts.”

Authors: Wiebke Schlörmann et al.

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