Ready for a classic Christmas dinner featuring roast beef, ham, turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts and veggies? Don't let guilt ruin your festivities this time, as researchers say Christmas dinner can be healthy, particularly since some of the traditional side dishes hold significant health benefits.

Researchers from Newcastle University evaluated the compounds of various Christmas trimmings and found that a popular festive side dish of carrots could help reduce cancer risk.

Eating five servings of carrots per week brought a 20% reduction in the risk of all types of cancer. Researchers say even one serving per week contributes to a significant reduction, with a 4% less cancer risk compared to those who never eat the vegetable. These findings were made after analyzing around 200 studies with 4.7 million participants. The results were published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

"Many researchers have noticed the benefits of carrots previously, and this is a reason why there was so much data for us to analyze. However, most of the previous studies focused on beta-carotene, one of the orange carotenoid phytochemicals, which give the orange carrots their color. Unfortunately, beta-carotene did not show much beneficial effect on cancer in controlled experiments. As a result, we studied carrots due to their content of a different type of phytochemicals, polyacetylenes, which are colorless but have strong effects on cancer," said study lead Charles Ojobor, from the Human Nutrition and Exercise Research Centre at Newcastle University.

Regarding roasted potatoes, researchers recommend cooking them to a golden crisp in an air fryer. They recommend rooster potatoes as the most suitable type for a roast.

"Rooster potatoes are perfect for making the best roast potato. They have a nice red skin and, when peeled, they reveal a lovely golden color underneath – perfect for your roasties on Christmas day," said Sophia Long, from the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering at Newcastle University.

Brussels sprouts, another classic vegetable associated with Christmas, are best when steamed, the researchers 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," said Kirsten Brandt, a senior lecturer in Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University.

The research team that looked at various forms of cooking Brussels sprouts found that the vegetable retains its glucosinolates during steaming. Glucosinates are compounds known for their ability to fight chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer.