Health Tips | Surviving the holidays

December 24, 2010 by David Despain

Diet and exercise

Keep the holiday bulge off by exercising, controlling cravings, and paying attention to weight and eating [J Consult Clin Psychol].

Eat right to keep weight off and live longer. You can lower risk your risk of an early death from chronic disease by making healthier food choices more frequently. Eat more frequent amounts of low-fat dairy products, poultry, fruits and vegetables, and fish; and avoid red meat, fried foods, alcohol, high-fat dairy products (ice cream, cheese, whole milk), and sugar sources — breakfast cereals and other refined grains (rice and pasta), sweets, and desserts [J Am Diet Assoc].

Don’t fry fish. Frying fish above 350°F (180° C) destroys heart-healthy omega-3s, which may partially explain why people in Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and other “stroke belt states” have a higher risk of stroke [American Academy of Neurology], along with use of trans fat and other factors.

Keep on exercising. Your heart adapts to the increase in pressure and volume by boosting muscle size, which protects you against heart failure and arrhythmias [Cell].

Stay safe on the road with a healthy BMI. Aside from protecting against chronic disease, maintaining BMI in a “normal weight” range can help you live through an automobile accident — overweight or obese people have an increased risk of dying in a car crash [Am J Emerg Med].

New treatments

Drink beetroot juice to lower blood pressure and exercise longer. It enhances performance by widening blood vessels and allowing more blood flow, reducing the amount of oxygen needed during exercise [J App Phys].

Eat strawberries and apples to combat blood-sugar spikes. These fruits contain polyphenols and phenolic acids, which can block or blunt glucose absorption across intestinal barriers [Mol Nutr & Food Res].

Eat Indian spices. A compound derived from curcumin (found in turmeric) provides neuroprotective benefits and enhances memory in animals [J Neuro]; it can also combat obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease by inhibiting inflammation and regulating fat metabolism [Nutr Rev].

Healthy babies

Breastfeed your baby. Surprising evidence suggests human milk changes its composition, influencing gene expression in infants and providing benefits beyond nutritional (in the form of microbes, immune-regulating proteins, and more). These changes also encourage brain development, stronger immunity, and lower risk of digestion issues [Nature].

Take fish oil daily. Its DHA omega-3 fatty acid increases its concentration in breast milk and supports infant brain development [J Nutr]. It could also help alleviate baby blues [ACNP].