Healthy ingredients for the holiday season


    By Teddy S. Manansala, RND, D/MENRM, MSc

    Due to the upcoming yuletide period, we will certainly prepare spreads of goodies for numerous intimate family get-togethers and gatherings with close friends. Thus, the ideal elements are crucial to ensure everyone’s well-being. We wish to suggest these food items to be incorporated in your festive holiday spread:

    Spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili and cayenne facilitate digestion, lower blood lipid and control blood sugar. It likewise has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may prevent some forms of cancer.

    Herbs, to include parsley, dill and coriander, plus mint, basil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary, enhance the effects of others. Options include onion, chives, bayleaf, lemon grass and tarragon. For instance, if a dressing contains marjoram, the antioxidant capacity is increased by 200%.

    Coconut Milk may be used as an animal milk-substitute for soup, chicken 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. It escapes digestion in the small intestine and offer immune protection.

    Fruits and vegetables are made colorful due to the plant pigments. Greens detoxify the body, restore energy and boost the immune system, while blues and purples are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and help avert cancer. Whites and browns keep the bones strong, 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, 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-ageing 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 guard the 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.


    (Teddy S. Manansala is a registered nutritionist-dietitian and a full-time assistant professor at the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (SHRIM), De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Manila. He teaches and mentors thesis writing among graduate students of SHRIM’s Master of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management Program.)