The holidays are filled with high calorie treats and meals that can make it hard to keep your waistline trim. Too much sugar and fat can increase inflammation in the body which may increase risk for certain chronic diseases.
Instead of eating too many sugary, high fat foods, here are some foods that you should load up during the holidays for their health benefits and anti-inflammatory components.
We typically think of cranberries around the holidays as jellied from a can and on top of turkey. However, we may benefit from eating more of these little red berries because they are packed with nutrition and health benefits.
One of cranberries’ known health benefits is for urinary tract health. Cranberries decrease risk for urinary tract infection by decreasing the infection causing E.coli bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract wall.
Cranberries may also help kill off the bacteria H. pylori, which is associated with stomach ulcers. Stress is one factor that may contribute to the development of H.pylori bacteria in the stomach. Since the holidays can be stressful, eating more cranberries may help deter this stress induced bacteria from developing.
Cranberries are full of antioxidants and other phytochemicals. According to a 2009 article in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, cranberries may help fight off cancer cells, decrease inflammation and protect from cardiovascular disease.
To increase consumption of cranberries, add fresh or dried cranberries to baked goods, stuffing, casseroles and salads. Make your own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries instead of buying canned jellied cranberries.
The cranberry isn’t the only winter fruit with health benefits. Pomegranates are full of health benefits similar to the cranberry. Pomegranates are also high in antioxidants and phytochemicals that may help lower inflammation and protect cells from damage.
A 2009 review article from Nutrition Reviews found pomegranate juice to have cardio protective benefits like lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension and decreasing plaque formation on arteries in mice.
Here are some ideas for using pomegranates:
- Add pomegranate juice to sparkling water for a light, refreshing mock tail.
- Add pomegranates seeds to salads, casseroles and baked goods.
- Add pomegranate seeds to yogurt, oatmeal or grab a handful for a sweet, crunchy treat.
- For easy use of the seeds, cut a pomegranate open. Place sections of the pomegranate in a bowl of cold water. Remove seeds and discard peel and membranes. Pour water and seeds through a strainer and store seeds in a container in the refrigerator.
Walnuts are a rich source of omega 3 fats, and omega 3’s have many positive health effects in the body including being anti-inflammatory. A 2013 study from The New England Journal of Medicine found that consistent nut consumption may offer more health benefits than just reducing risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers found that nut consumption was inversely related to overall mortality in research participants. Participants who ate nuts 7-10 times per week had a 20% lower death rate compared to participants who did not eat nuts. A serving of nuts is 1 ounce, about 1 handful.
During the holidays, snack on walnuts, or any other nut, for a midafternoon snack. Top almost any dish with a sprinkle of walnuts to add a crunch and rich flavor.
Leafy greens are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and we should load up on them any time of year. Does this mean you need to eat only salads? Definitely not. Besides salads, in order to get more leafy greens in your diet, add them to egg dishes, soups, smoothies and stir fries.
Switch out your normal greens with different varieties like spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard or beet greens. Whatever savory holiday dishes you make, add some leafy greens for a nutritional boost.
Garlic offers a lot more than causing bad breath. Garlic has been used for centuries for its health benefits ranging from helping fight off cancer cells, acting as an anti-oxidant, decreasing arthritis pain, heart health, fighting bacteria and boosting immune health.
Raw garlic can be literally hard to swallow, but it may offer the highest health benefits. Add bits of garlic to dishes like mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables or meat dishes. If you don’t want the taste of raw garlic, sauté the garlic lightly in olive oil before adding to a dish or add directly to food that is going to be heated.
Instead of focusing on foods you shouldn’t eat this holiday season because they’re unhealthy, focus on the foods you should load up on because of their health benefit. Berries in general, but especially around the holidays, add pomegranates and cranberries as a delicious, sweet addition to holiday treats or savory dishes.
Sneak in leafy greens and garlic wherever possible during the holidays for a nutritional boost this time of year. It may help boost your immune system too. Grab a handful of walnuts to munch on and sprinkle dishes with walnuts to get the health benefits nuts have to offer.