Functional Nutrition & Holiday Eating

For Beyond 50's "Natural Healing" talks, listen to an interview with Cindy Haas.  She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She'll approach the holidays with an eye towards functional nutrition.  Haas offers suggestions that are more healthful options in the preparation of holiday meals regarding sugar consumption, snacking, alcoholic drinks and fatty foods.

Start A New Tradition

As an alternative to following cooking traditions that recommend unhealthy ingredients and portions, Haas asks that we go back to cooking instinctively with REAL food that's nutrient dense and organic - making meals from scratch without getting loaded on sugar and processed foods.

Holiday's Season of Sugar

Holiday eating that starts from Halloween in the Fall till Easter in Springtime, is synonymous with consuming lots of sugar.  The average amount is 100 lbs. per person/per year. Lots of the hidden sugars can be found in processed foods to create an addiction because it "lights up" centers of the brain, just like cocaine.  They have similar chemical makeup.

The sugar in the body spikes up the blood sugar level, creating a roller-coaster high then low.  It can also weaken our immunity, making our bodies susceptible to seasonal colds and flu.

When depressed during the holidays, comfort foods can soothe us, but only temporarily to provide short-lived stimulation.  People like the sugar "high" because it feels good.

Eating sugar can create an acidic environment in the body.  Over time, this leads to an inflammatory cellular response that starts the diet-related disease process.  Fruits and vegetables are effective in neutralizing the acidity to reduce inflammation.

If the food needs to be sweetened, substitute white sugar with honey, maple sugar, stevia, or pineapple juice.

How You Eat

A good habit when eating is to slow down to chew more and don't swallow until you get that baby food consistency while savoring the flavors.  It creates a more meaningful experience to the quality of the food you're eating.  It also gives the brain enough time to know that the stomach is full. 

As a rule, don't pick up your fork until you've fully chewed and swallowed.  Set the silverware down when chewing.

That Tired, Full Feeling

A common assumption around Thanksgiving is that we feel sleepy after a big meal (jokingly called "turkey coma") from the amino acid, tryptophan, found in the turkey meat.  This is only partly true.  It's tryptophan, combined with overeating, and lots of carbohydrates doing that.  Consuming excessive carbohydrates alone causes sleepiness.

To avoid the overstuffed, tired feeling, Haas recommends that we have a balanced meal in these portions: 40% carbohudrates/30% proteins/30% fats.  By following this, you can eat less and feel satisfied.

When we eat carbohydrates, it can be done to excess because our bodies don't have a shut-off mechanism that says, "I'm done eating."  Fats are different because your body responds when you've had enough.  You can't overeat on fats or you'll feel sick.

As for the faddish interest in low-fat foods, Haas countered by saying, "If you strip all the fat out of it (foods), what it did was give us more license to eat more because it was low fat and we didn't stop to look at the fact that to make it taste good, they had to either increase the salt or increase the sugar.  Indigenous people of long ago had high fat diets and remained healthy." 

It's important to choose the best fats, preferably foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids.  As a cooking suggestion, coconut oil can be interchanged for butter on most foods.

Watch out for processed foods.  They have addictive preservatives and additives that contain appetite stimulants.  They encourage us to overeat on carbohydrates to spike our blood sugar, then crash down to feeling sleepy.

In Conclusion

Learn to listen to your body.  What's right for you may not be right for the next person.

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