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Researchers uncover health benefits of a Christmas roast

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Researchers at Newcastle University have been researching the different characteristics and compounds of festive trimmings and have found that some of the side-dishes offer significant benefits – including the divisive Brussels sprout.

Sprouts contain a high content of glucosinolates – an important molecule that interacts with proteins associated with repairing damaged DNA and promoting cell death in cancer tumours.

While glucosinolates are highest in raw Brussels sprouts, cooking affects their contents.

The Newcastle University study has looked at roasting, boiling, or steaming and how it impacts the chemical composition of the vegetable.

Dr Kirsten Brandt, Senior Lecturer in Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, said: “If you boil the Brussels sprouts then you lose a lot of the important compounds into the water.

“If you roast them, they are being broken down during the cooking, so steaming is the one that gives most of these tasty and healthy compounds in the final product.”

The researchers also found that carrots could help reduce the risk of cancer by almost a quarter.

In new research, experts found that five servings of the vegetable per week was linked to a 20 per cent reduction in developing all types of cancer.

In addition, eating just one serving per week still gives a significant reduction, with a 4 per cent lower chance of the disease compared to those who never eat the vegetable.

For the research, scientists carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of nearly 200 studies and 4.7 million participants.

Carrots contain an abundance of different compounds that have been investigated for health benefits with β-carotene – the compound causing the red-orange pigment of the vegetable – being most researched in the past.

However, the researchers have shown that the whole carrot, rather than carotenes, provides an anti-cancer effect when consumed in enough quantity.

They showed that carrot intake had a reduced cancer incidence across a number of different groupings, from geographic region to exposure and cancer type.

The researchers also studied more than 250 varieties of potatoes, looking at different qualities from tuber characteristics to their ability to resist disease and climate stress.

Potatoes are rich in fibre and ideal for air frying as the healthiest way to cook the festive trimming to a golden crisp.

But with so many varieties to choose from, which is the perfect spud for roasting?

PhD student Sophia Long, from the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering at Newcastle University, said: “Rooster potatoes are perfect for making the best roast potato.

“They have a nice red skin and, when peeled, they reveal a lovely golden colour underneath – perfect for your roasties on Christmas day.”

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