A Cool Calm Christmas

There are a multitude of reasons Christmas makes for an exciting time of year – great food, family fun, presents, vacations and catching up with friends or simply enjoying a time of rest and renewal. While there is much to be merry about over the holiday season, humans are not raised by elves!

Naturally, stress is bound to poke its head out from under the Christmas tree. Being surrounded (or smothered) by family and indulgently tempted by tasty sweets can cause havoc on the body. The pressure of finding the perfect gift or cooking the perfect turkey (and not having your house go up in flames in the process) may turn you into a Grinch!

I’m here to offer some advice on how to stay calm and have a stress-free, relaxing holiday season. Here is some helpful nutritional advice to get you and your body on track:

Something smells fishy…

Omega 3 fatty acids are a member of the polyunsaturated fat family and a must for brain health. Omega 3 fatty acids combat inflammation, relax artery walls (a good thing if some family members can really drive up your blood pressure!) and are protective against some forms of cancer. The easiest way to get omega 3 fatty acids is by consuming 2-3 weekly servings of small, oily, cold water fish, such as mackerel, sardines, or herring.

While salmon is a fabulous fish full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, we highly recommend only purchasing organically farmed or wild caught salmon.

Turkey time

An essential amino acid tryptophan is found in turkey. The body cannot make this particular acid, and therefore, it must be obtained through diet. Tryptophan is also found in chicken, eggs and fish. Tryptophan is needed by the body to produce the feel good, sleepy brain chemical called serotonin – this is why a horizontal limbo is the typical post-feast position! When your serotonin levels are high, you will sleep better and feel happier.

Be as green as the Grinch!

Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in muscular relaxation. Just one cup of spinach fills 40% of your daily quota. Spinach can be incorporated into salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and even brownies!

All hail the almond

Vitamin E is found in almonds, an antioxidant that plays a critical role in the protection of our cellular membranes. Almonds are low in carbs and high in protein, making them the perfect mid-day or mid-morning snack to curb your sweet tooth craving. Almonds are another source of magnesium, promoting relaxation and helping to reduce blood pressure. Organic, raw almonds are best, and even better if soaked for 6-8 hours to deactivate phytic acid – phytic acid in high concentrations can block mineral absorption

Don’t get blue… unless it’s from blueberries!

Blueberries are loaded with vitamin C, important in the health of our immune system and adrenal glands. Our immune system must stay in check to keep us fit and healthy, while our adrenal glands are responsible for the control of our stress response. Blueberries are a great topper for granola, cereal, or make a great addition to baked goods.

The versatile avocado

Avocados are loaded with healthy fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, protein and potassium. If you need an energy boost add in some avocado to your smoothies, salads, and even use it as a replacement for butter in recipes. If you wish to throw in a Mexican twist to your Christmas holidays, serve up some guacamole as an appetiser – always a crowd pleaser!

Asparagus isn’t just your average green…

Asparagus is rich in folic acid, a vital nutrient with powerful mood-boosting properties. Folate is an important nutrient to help with the breakdown of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an inflammatory marker often associated with CV disease and it’s ideal to have low serum levels. Asparagus is a great addition to eggs and toast, a fabulous side dish with goat cheese, or just yummy to enjoy with a sprinkle of salt and melted, grass-fed butter.

Stay hydrated… and I don’t mean with alcohol!

It is recommended that you drink 30 ml per kg of pure water daily for optimal hydration levels. Dehydration can leave you feeling grumpy, tired, and lethargic.

Sleeping takes up about 1/3 of our lives…

At least that’s what the experts say! Many of us simply don’t get enough sleep, and the effects of poor sleep have negative implications for both our physical and mental well-being. Our sleep/wake cycle is controlled by the ‘circadian rhythm’, which is ultimately directed by specific glands located in our brains. Our bodies love routine – going to bed and waking at the same time each day is ideal.

To avoid disruptions to the production of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, it is recommended to limit the use of screens including TVs, laptops, ipads and mobile phones 60 minutes before bed.

Avoid eating 2 hours before bed. If you do plan on an evening snack, steer clear of tyramine rich foods, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and wine (isn’t that a kill joy!). Tyramine is an amino acid that promotes wakefulness. Tart cherries, oats, or a warm glass of milk 2 hours before bed can have sleep enhancing effects. If you’re leaving a glass of milk out for Santa, do yourself a favour and pour a second one for yourself.

Get up and move!

Holidays are a chance to relax, take a load off, and put up your feet. But, don’t turn into a couch potato! Incorporating 30 minutes of daily exercise is a heart healthy way to boost your mood and maintain an ideal weight.

Daily exercise can help you to sleep better and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes. While Santa is a generous man, his body type is not the ideal depiction of good health – visceral fat, or weight gain around your mid-section drives up your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Don’t forget to include resistance training a few times per week – and no, lifting the turkey in and out of the oven doesn’t count!

Vary your activity to keep it interesting. Incorporating sports and spending time outdoors this holiday season is a great way to spend time with the family.

To make an appointment with Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist, Amanda Harasym call Elevate on 9252 2225.

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