Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Red and black for Christmas

Published:Monday | December 28, 2015 | 3:03 PMMarsha N. Woolery

The traditional colours for Christmas decorations are red and green. The highlight of a typical Jamaican Christmas meal is Red and Black.  What would a Jamaican meal look like on Christmas day without our traditional sorrel drink and fruit cake?

Sorrel is from the hibiscus plant family and is high in flavonoids, healthy substance found in red fruits and vegetable that helps to lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Sorrel is a good source of vitamins C, B1, and B2. According to Professor Paul Gyles, researcher at Northern Caribbean University, using the whole sorrel (calyx and seeds) reduces the risk of developing lung and laryngeal cancers. 

Tips for using sorrel this Christmas and everyday.

Get the most health benefits from sorrel by:

* Blending the calyx (flower) and seeds of the sorrel- drink will be thicker with more flavour and richness

* Using less sugar to sweeten drink. Research has shown that excess sugar is stored in the body as fat.

* Adding less rum or wine to drink. Appreciate the real taste of true Jamaican sorrel.

* Using pureed or chopped sorrel to make stuffing for poultry. Mix with breadcrumbs, raisins and other ingredients…yummy, appealing and healthy.

* Making a sorrel sauce or chutney for fish, poultry, beef and even the spicy curried goat or the vegetarian dish.

* Preparing a special smoothie with sorrel added. The calyx of the sorrel may be used instead of the green vegetable or the sorrel drink instead of other juices in smoothie. Be even more creative and make ice using sorrel drink or brew then use sorrel flavoured ice to make smoothie.

The traditional Jamaican fruit cake is made with a variety of dried fruits that has been soaked (rehydrated for many weeks in red wine and sometimes a little rum).

Have you ever thought about the nutrients found in our Jamaican fruit cake?

It is loaded with:

* calories from margarine, sugar, dried fruits, rum and wine

* fiber from dried fruits. It reduces bad cholesterol, improves good cholesterol levels and prevents constipation.

* resveratrol found in raisins, currants, prunes and red wine. It is an anti-oxidant that lowers the risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers. 

* Anthocyanins, an anti-oxidant in raisins, currants and prunes. Reduces risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease.

* Vitamins B1, B2, B6 from raisins, currants, prunes, cherries.

* Iron found in raisins, prunes, currants helps to prevent iron deficiency anemia

* Potassium is found in raisins, prunes, currants and is helpful in maintaining the heart rate, lowering blood pressure.

* An excellent flavour from a combination of all the ingredients and love from the cake maker.

What an eye opener? But what can we do to lower the calories in this cake?

* Use less butter or margarine when creaming with sugar. Blended or pureed raisins, prunes, currants and cherries are an excellent fat substitute. 

* Use less sugar to cream with butter or margarine. Substitute blended or pureed fruits for sugar. Dried fruits are naturally high in sugar and the fiber in the fruits when rehydrated will also bind all ingredients and add a more fruity flavour.

The rum?? Let me tread softly by being very quick – use less in sorrel and cake, because during the festive season, alcoholic beverages are served all day in most households.

We have been blessed with the ability to create sumptuous dishes that are usually over consumed and cause weight gain. Let us make the Red and Black on our table or the kitchen counter healthier this season.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: