|As this year is drawing to a close, we find our calendars are beginning
to fill with parties and gatherings to celebrate the November and
December holidays. The grocery stores are building displays to entice
holiday bakers to create delectable desserts and treats. Friends and
neighbors will be sharing special pies, gooey cakes and other
calorie-laden gifts with one another. We will work our way through one
gastronomic adventure after another until we roll into a new year a
little pudgier, a little more energy-challenged, and perhaps a little
disappointed in ourselves for not having been more disciplined.
Do your holiday plans include spending a week in bed with the virus? Perhaps we should consider the toll that holiday goodies might take on our health so that we will remain healthy during the holidays. Instead of rolling into a new year with a few extra pounds and an appointment with the dreaded flu, we can make three simple choices that will not only support our health but also create a springboard for shedding both poor eating habits and extra weight.
Choice #1: Choose to eat more whole foods.
When a whole food is refined it is subjected to mechanical or chemical processing that changes its nutrient content. Refined are foods like refined white flour, refined sugar, and refined table salt. The original whole food has been stripped of nutrients and subjected to chemical processes to produce something that looks pure and white. Refined foods like baked goods, donuts, lunchmeat, chips, and candy can damage our health if over-consumed.
Americans tend to choose highly processed foods over whole foods. Typically found in boxes, cans and packages, highly processed foods bear little resemblance to the original whole food that might be listed in the ingredients list. Factory-produced foods might contain dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial sugar, hydrogenated oils, fillers and other chemicals. Eating nutritionally deprived processed foods damages health.
Lightly processed foods can be a healthier choice. Freshly prepared juices, soaked and cooked beans, olive oil, and fermented vegetables are not whole foods, but they are still healthy.
Choice #2: Choose foods that support health.
Eating healthy foods before going to a party will help you to avoid filling up on sweets and other foods that do not support good health. During the holidays there is of course an abundance of sweets on every table. Raymond Francis, author of Never Be Sick Again, writes that sugar "damages the cells of our immune system, creating susceptibility to colds, flu and other immune-related diseases." It is surprising to learn that the average person eats half a pound of sugar a day. Sugar, which has zero nutritional value, can add up quickly. When we look at the ingredients listed on food labels, we find sugar in processed foods like cereals, snacks, juices, frozen dinners, even ketchup. A twelve-ounce can of Coke, for example, contains ten teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar is not our only concern. Pasta, white bread, white rice, and white potatoes are examples of starches that are quickly converted to sugar in our body. It is always better to choose a whole food over a processed food, like a whole orange over a glass of orange juice which might have five teaspoons of sugar and no fiber. Food manufacturers offer a variety of processed foods made with organic ingredients, but these are not always healthy choices. Cookies made with organic flour and organic sugars are still sugary desserts that contribute to our overload of immune-suppressing sugar.
Is it best to choose organically grown foods? The answer is yes. Go for whole fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is grown without the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides.
Choice #3: Choose healthier beverages
Experts say that it takes about three weeks to develop a new habit. During the upcoming holidays, consider these three simple choices that you can make to support your health and build a stronger immune system.