Endless canapés, seafood platters, Christmas cake – oh my! Hey, we’re all going to give into temptation, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Leading Sydney naturopath Victoria O’Sullivan says, “It’s hard to stay on track during the holidays. If you fall off the wagon, don’t despair. Guide your food choices with the 90/10 rule, where 90 per cent of your diet is focused on high quality nutritionally dense foods and 10 per cent is reserved for treats.
“We’re going to give into temptation this festive season; it’s inevitable. Make good food and a positive environment your top priorities outside festive and family gatherings and you won’t have to play catch-up in the new year,” says Victoria.
Here are Victoria’s top 5 tips to help compensate for our bad habits:
1. Reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory foods
All forms of sugar and most starchy foods are pro-inflammatory. So steer clear of sweets, pastries, biscuits, milky chocolates, chips, breads and snack foods, including rice and corn cakes. When we eat sugary or starchy foods, we trigger a pro-inflammatory release of sugar into our bloodstream, which causes our body to store fat. Eating sugary foods also triggers a spike in insulin levels, which in turn increases our appetite setting up a vicious cycle of overeating.
2. Up your intake of blueberries, garlic and spices
Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory. Berries of all types, but particularly blueberries are delicious antioxidant super food. Spices such as cinnamon and turmeric are also super foods, as with garlic, onions and horseradish. These foods contain high concentrations of cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Lower amounts are also found in whole grains, other vegetables and beans. Dark leafy greens are another important antioxidant source, and they are also high in folate which assists cell-regeneration. By replacing pro-inflammatory processed, starchy and sugary foods with foods high in antioxidants we work to neutralise inflammation in the body.
3. Add more leafy greens in your diet
Foods with a high alkaline content, such as avocados, leafy greens, soya beans, radish and broccoli work to help regulate the pH of our blood cells. When we eat too much acid the body is forced to draw on its alkaline stores to balance the surplus acid. The acid then creates nasty things like yeast, harmful microforms, mycotoxins and bacteria.
4. Control your cortisol levels
In today’s lifestyle stress can be almost a daily occurrence for some, especially during the holidays. When we feel stressed our nervous system is affected and we can have trouble sleeping. Both stress and lack of sleep raise the hormone cortisol in our bodies, which regulates the anti-inflammatory response. Over time in periods of high stress and little sleep our body becomes less sensitive to cortisol and inflammation takes over. Try and get eight hours of undisturbed sleep each night and take up activities that reduce stress.
5. Control your weight
People carrying excess weight are in a permanent state of inflammation. Research shows that fat isn’t just the storage of excess energy that body has not used. Instead when not maintained at an ideal level, fat functions like an endocrine organ releasing hormones into the system prompting an inflammatory response. Excess weight also reduces the body’s ability to cope with inflammatory foods. The only answer is weight loss to reduce the body’s pro-inflammatory activity and allow it to more readily to regulate the effects of pro-inflammatory foods.
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What’s your attitude to Christmas eating? Do you balance healthy choices with the guilty indulgences, or just go all out and make up for it in January?