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Why Christmas is good for you and your health

Don’t be too tough on yourself, you may be having a healthier time than you think!

Although there's no denying that most of us eat and drink more during the festive period, Christmas can actually give us just the boost we need. Here we explain why, with help from nutritionist Rob Hobson.

Christmas foods

The type of food we eat at Christmas also has some amazing nutritional oomph. Make the most of all the nuts doing the rounds - especially Brazils for their extraordinarily high selenium content. Rich in disease-fighting phytonutrients called 'glucosinolates', the humble sprout also has powerful antioxidant properties. They also contain more vitamin C than broccoli or strawberries for a great immune boost.

And don't forget about your cranberry sauce too. 'They contain fibre, vitamin C and the bioflavanoid 'anthocyanin', which has been linked to promoting proper eyesight and reduced risk of degenerative disease,' says Rob. For an extra boost, try a cranberry supplement which may help in the prevention of urinary tract infections.

Simply having fun!

Never underestimate the value of having a good time. According to research from the American Psychological Association, being happy can have as big an impact on your life as not smoking or taking regular exercise. Plus, new research from the Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University suggests that it is our relationships that are more likely to make us happy, not material things.

So, whether it is having a laugh with friends and family, belting out some Christmas carols or simply enjoying the company of those dearest to you, you can add to your pleasure in the knowledge that all that joie de vivre will not only be making you feel good it will be boosting your immune system and your general wellbeing.

Having too much to eat

We certainly do more eating and drinking during the festive period than at any other time of year but, rather than berate yourself, let's start by taking a moment to think about Christmas dinner:

The Food Standards Agency estimates that people eat more fruit and vegetables on Christmas Day than on any day of the year, so even if you struggle to achieve your target of five fruit and veg on a daily basis you will more than likely exceed that recommendation on 25th December, and that has to be a good thing.

And don't forget, Christmas dinner may be the one chance many of us get to catch up as a family and spend some quality time together.

Rest and relaxation

Christmas should be a time to relax and slow down a little. Forget feeling guilty about lie-ins or afternoon naps over the festive break. Catching up on lost sleep is good for you. It will leave you feeling more refreshed and able to cope with life and will give your immune system a boost. In fact, according to one study, taking a siesta could even lower your risk of developing heart health problems.

Get down and boogie

While there may be time spent slumped in front of the telly, Christmas could also be the perfect opportunity to get more active.

'No-one is suggesting that you force yourself into a gruelling fitness regime,' says GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. 'But a good walk after your lunch has gone down or an afternoon playing with the kids on their latest games could go a long way to helping burn off those extra calories.'

And don't forget all those festive season parties - you don't need to be in a gym to be working out. A good stint on the dance floor could burn up just as many calories and is probably a lot more fun.

Realistic resolutions

Most of us will use the run up to the New Year as a time to consider our New Year's Resolutions. And nearly all of them will involve a combination of eating more healthily, cutting down on alcohol or cigarettes and getting more active.

Unfortunately, most of them will also be distant memories by the end of January. So why not try something different this year? Forget promising yourself you will be a size zero by the spring or that you will spend an hour every day in the gym. Setting yourself a target that you can't achieve will only leave you feeling negative when you fail. Small changes that are sustainable are much more likely to be successful long term and will boost your self-esteem.

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.