There's no denying that most of us eat and drink more during the festive period – but there are actually several ways in which this time of year is good for our mental and physical health.
It would be remiss not to start with Christmas food, because although lots of it has a reputation for being rich and laden with sugar, there are plenty of seasonal vegetables, dried fruits and nutritious nuts doing the rounds. "Brazil nuts, for example, have an extraordinarily high selenium content," says nutritionist Rob Hobson. Selenium is important for immunity and male fertility.
"The humble sprout, meanwhile, is rich in disease-fighting phytonutrients called 'glucosinolates' and also has powerful antioxidant properties," continues Hobson. "They actually contain more vitamin C than broccoli or strawberries, which is a great immune boost."
Don't forget about your cranberry sauce, either. "Cranberries contain fibre, vitamin C and the bioflavanoid 'anthocyanin', which has been linked to promoting proper eyesight and a reduced risk of degenerative disease," says Hobson. "For an extra boost, try a cranberry supplement."
Thanks to the variety of vegetables in our Christmas dinner, the Food Standards Agency estimates that people eat more fruit and vegetables on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year.
Never underestimate the value of having a good time. According to research from the Journal of Happiness Studies, being happy can have as big an impact on your life as not smoking.1
Being happy is also linked to a healthier lifestyle2 (including getting more exercise and making healthier food choices), a stronger immune system3 and improved heart health, including lower blood pressure4 and a reduced risk of heart disease.5
...and spending time with loved ones
Research from the Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University suggests that our relationships are more likely to make us happy than material things,6 so whether it's playing a family-friendly game, or belting out some Christmas carols, doing things together and strengthening our relationships is great for our health.
Supports digestion and liver health
- 360mg artichoke extract with 7.2mg cynarin per tablet
- Extracted from the stems and leaves of the plant
- Added calcium for digestion and vitamin B6 for metabolism
Enjoy some rest and relaxation
Forget feeling guilty about lie-ins or afternoon naps over the festive break. According to one study, taking a siesta could lower your risk of developing heart health problems by reducing blood pressure.7
New ways to exercise
Your normal gym routine or training might be off the table, but that doesn't mean you can't find other ways to stay active.
"No-one is suggesting that you force yourself into a gruelling fitness regime," says GP and 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."
Don't forget all those festive season parties, too. A good stint on the dance floor could burn up just as many calories as a trip to the gym.
A time to look forward
Most of us will use the run up to New Year as a time to consider what we want to achieve in the year ahead. By all means, set goals – eating more healthily, investing more time in relationships or starting a new hobby will all add to our life – but make them achievable. Small changes that are sustainable are much more likely to be successful long-term.