The Bones of Christmas: calcium-rich recipes for the festive season

So for those who are fearful that an uncontrolled binge over Christmas may leave them bow-legged and unsteady on their feet by the intrusive light of Boxing Day, fear no more. There’s plenty to eat that will nourish, strengthen and fortify those bones without leaving you nibbling sadly on a limp lettuce leaf or mere boiled potato. There is an enormous amount of Christmas fare that is healthy and hearty, warm and cheery, and thoroughly delicious.

The Meat of the Matter

 First off, meat is good. Yes, you can have as much beef, turkey or wild-caught salmon as you like. All are a good dose of protein and calcium, and your bones are quite happy about the whole thing. But there are some interesting twists and turns you can make when preparing your spectacular and specialised dinner; some flavoursome side dishes that will fascinate your guests – not to mention strengthening their bones to ensure a notable spring in their step after dinner.

Cauliflower as Mashed Potato

Did you know you can replace mashed potato with steamed, whipped cauliflower and no one will notice? No, really, give it a test. Tasty and good for digestion, you can’t do better. And why? Because cauliflower adds almost twice the amount of calcium that potatoes provide.

 Ingredients

1 head cauliflower;  2 tbsp milk;  1 tbsp butter;  organic rosemary, dried;  Himalayan sea salt (seriously? The last time the sea covered the Himalayas was about 250 million years ago, so not sure how deep you will have to dig);  garlic and black pepper.

Instructions

With a hand blender, whip your lightly steamed cauliflower. (If you don’t have a steamer and decide to boil your cauliflower, make sure to strain it before blending to get rid of any excess water). Add the organic butter, dried (crushed) rosemary, garlic, Himalayan sea salt and pepper. To make it creamier, add two tablespoons of milk – full cream or 2%, but not skimmed milk.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Now you can’t be having turkey without cranberry sauce! Of course you can pick up a jar at the store, but making your own is fun and festive – and of course we’re doing this because it’s really healthy stuff! Homemade you can control the sugar, and no preservatives, and you’ll be getting extra calcium and vitamin C from the orange. But more than that, cranberry is plentiful in bone-building calciummagnesiummanganesevitamin K, and iron. Phytonutrients are in the cranberries’ skin and flesh (not the juice). These phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids fight inflammation that may increase bone degeneration.

Instructions

  • Add 2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries to a medium bowl.
  • Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar (this is about two-thirds the amount of sugar in traditional cranberry sauce)
  • Add the freshly-squeezed juice of one orange, one tablespoon of orange (peel) zest, and one teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Transfer your mixture to a pot and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves – about 10 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium until the cranberries start to break down – about another 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for 5 minutes. Taste your sauce and adjust taste accordingly (by adding extra salt, pepper, cinnamon or orange if necessary).

Savoury Stuffing

You can make a really good stuffing by using cooked quinoa instead of bread. Quinoa works well with traditional ingredients like chopped celery, onion, mushrooms and apple, dried cranberries, poultry seasoning, chicken broth, walnuts, garlic, and pinches of cinnamon and ground allspice. So this is going to be a monumental success!

Why quinoa? Because it provides a large amount of protein, all the nine essential amino acids your body can’t make by itself– a rare attribute for a plant-based protein! But even more importantly for your bones, quinoa’s flavonoid antioxidants (quercetin and kaempferol) are potent anti-inflammatories that protect bone and tissue health. And there’s even more! It has more oleic acid and omega-3s than other grains, making it an all-round healthy choice.

 The Gravy

Gravies are traditionally made with fat drippings from the cooking pan, but by using a chicken stock, you can cut the amount of dripping in half without sacrificing flavour.

Instructions:  

  • Sautee the chicken stock and drippings with whole grain flour instead of white flour or corn-starch to thicken the gravy. Crushed flax seeds will also thicken gravy well.
  • Add dried spices and herbs instead of heavily salting. Powdered garlic, chives, parsley, rosemary, and pepper, are all great options!

Dark Chocolate

This is the perfect addition on the Christmas table, wrapped in gold paper and looking festive and mysteriously decadent at the same time. Named by some as the perfect pleasure food, it has energy-boosting minerals, calming fats and the ability to raise serotonin and dopamine levels. These are the fall-in-love neurotransmitters that create feelings of elation and happiness. (Your bones are gonna love this!) Choosing dark chocolate will give you a celebratory food that is very high in iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Dark chocolate also offers potassium, zinc, and selenium – all of which support bone health.

Christmas Breakfast Casserole

Funny how hungry one gets when opening presents! And the best way to fix that is with this superb Mediterranean-inspired casserole. (Actually, you could have it for lunch as well.)

Ingredients

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed;  1 (9 ounce) box frozen artichoke hearts;  ¾ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes;  1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil;  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped;  ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper;  1 teaspoon lemon zest;  2 cups low-fat milk;  5 large eggs;  1 cup crumbled feta cheese;  12 ounces rustic whole-wheat bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups).

Instructions

  • Place spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze firmly over the sink to remove as much liquid as possible. Combine the squeezed spinach and artichoke hearts in a medium bowl.
  • Cook tomatoes, oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and lemon zest in a small skillet over low heat, stirring often, until fragrant and the garlic is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir into the spinach mixture.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Whisk milk and eggs in a large bowl. Add the spinach mixture, feta and bread. Toss gently until the bread absorbs the milk mixture. Spoon the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Bake until set and browned in spots, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

 

NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)

NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.

Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za

 

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