Know Better, Feel Better, And Stay Healthy Through The Holidays

This holiday season time of the year, Turkey dinners, cocktail parties, and family get-togethers pack our calendars and fill us with festive fare. But while the season is a welcome and joyous time, it is all too easy to ignore some important nutritional dos and don’ts.

In addition to your daily exercises and taking time to rest and unwind, the following simple nutritional tips can help you stay healthy and maintain your weight over the holidays.

Choose a smaller plate for less weight
With a large spread, it’s tempting to grab a big plate and try everything the host has to offer. A better strategy is to check out the buffet line first and choose the healthier items you’ll be having. Opt for the baked sweet potatoes instead of the creamy casserole. Then, when it’s time to dine, use a small plate to help keep portions and calories under control.

Watch out those festive drinks
Most cocktails have around 150 calories, but many holiday drinks, such as traditional egg nog, can pack a whopping 300 calories and more than 20 grams of sugar. This can easily equate to an extra pound of fat on your body. Remember, your body doesn’t digest and burn liquid calories the same way it does calories from food. When you drink alcohol, your body will burn through acetate - a byproduct of alcohol metabolism - instead of body fat.

To ensure that you don’t fall victim to the drink dilemma, consume in moderation. To reduce sugar and calories, choose light, non-sweet cocktails and "cut" fruit juices with sparkling mineral water.

What about desserts
Did you know that one piece of pecan pie has more than 500 calories, 65 carbohydrates, and 32 grams of sugar? And that eating 100 grams of sugar can reduce your immune system’s ability to kill germs by a whopping 40 percent! Not only does sugar depress your immune system, it meddles with your endocrine machinery, encourages fat storage, promotes cancer, and physically ages you through the production of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).

Boos your immune system
We often don’t think of our immune system - until it fails us. And stress, alcohol, sugar, and lack of sound sleep and sunshine - known immune wreckers - are par for the course during the holidays. The good news is that you can strengthen your defenses and get your immune system in tip-top shape to guard against many common winter woes. Along with a high-quality whole-foods multivitamin/mineral and a fish oil supplement (both of which you should be taking every day), here are some of the best-known immunity boosters to keep on hand:

  • Vitamin C - Boosts the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and also increases interferon - the antibody that coats cells’ surfaces and makes them impenetrable to viruses. While 200 mg per day is what many experts recommend, you may want to increase your intake to 1,000 mg per day.
  • Vitamin D - An essential part of a healthy immune system. Vitamin D receptors are found in most cells of the immune system, and this "sunshine vitamin" is now known to reduce the risk of many diseases (including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease). To optimize your vitamin D levels, opt for 10-15 minutes per day of unprotected sunlight or between 2,000 and 4,000 IU daily in supplement form
  • Folate - Helps to protect against alcohol-induced DNA damage. Recent studies show that 650 mcg of folate per day negates the increased risk of colon and breast cancers associated with alcohol consumption
  • Selenium - Increases natural killer cells and mobilizes the body’s cancer-fighting cells. And just one Brazil nut provides a hefty 100 mcg (about 150 percent of the RDA) of this immune-boosting microminerals
  • Garlic - Stimulates infection-fighting white blood cells, boosts natural killer (NK) cell activity, increases the efficiency of antibody production, and acts as a natural antioxidant and adaptogen
  • Zinc - Boosts the number of infection-fighting T cells, especially in those with weakened immunity. Aim for 15-25 mg per day.
  • Adaptogens (astragalus, andrographis) - These plant-derived agents help your body adapt to and defend against stress by enhancing your immune artillery. Take adaptogens during the prodromal phase or initial onset of illness (for example, as soon as you feel that slight tingle in your throat or tightness in your chest).

Following these simple nutritional strategies can help you stay healthy now, so you don’t pay a big price later. But don’t be afraid to savor a taste of your favorite holiday food and splurge a bit. Remember, wellness is all about balance!

Chew on this
Have you ever been "done" eating, only to make your way back to the buffet line one last time? According to recent research published in the journal Appetite, a surefire way to send your body the message that the kitchen’s closed is to chew a piece of all-natural, sugar-free gum. Not only does peppermint taste terrible with mashed potatoes, but chewing gum has been found to reduce hunger and specifically stave off cravings for sweets.

More cranberries, please
As you may already know, people have been using cranberry juice to promote urinary health for some time now.  But did you know that that researchers also found that plain old cranberry juice successfully wiped out three different viral strains? And with good reason. It packs a potent dose of vitamin C, a known immune system booster.  It has been shown to help prevent bacteria from adhering to the inner wall of the bladder.

In studies, typical grocery store cranberry juice successfully protected against three different viruses using concentrations of as little as 20 percent (more dilute solutions were not as effective). With the cold season right around the corner…it might not be a bad idea to stock up on some cranberry.

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