At the end of a difficult year we deserve to enjoy the Festive Season more than ever. However, sometimes enjoying ourselves involves indulging in food and drink that may not be that good for us. The “holiday effect” shows that death rates from heart related problems rise over the Christmas and New Year period (1). The combination of high expectations, emotional stress and too much rich food and drink can take its toll on physical and emotional well being. While health has always been important we’ve learnt this year that protecting our health is of utmost importance in order to protect ourselves from all kinds of unknowns.
Here we’ll look at how to eat, drink and be merry without sabotaging our health.
- Load up on vegetables – traditional Christmas fare generally includes a range of vegetables. Load up on these and have less of the rest. Research shows that eating more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase happiness levels. It seems that happiness benefits can be detected for every extra portion of fruit or veg eaten each day, up to 8 portions. The psychological benefits of eating fruit and veg seem to pay off much more quickly than their effects on cancer and other degenerative diseases where the pay off may take years to manifest (2).
- Chocolate – is surprisingly good for heart health. Cacao has been shown to reduce platelet aggregation, improve cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure and reduce insulin resistance (3,4). Studies show a 50% reduction in mortality in those who eat dark Tom Oliver’s vegan snack bars and protein powders are both available in cocao enriched flavours.
- Essential fats – low incidence of sudden cardiac death is correlated with a high dietary intake of omega 3 fats (5). The essential fats are found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils. Many people choose to supplement with omega 3 fats such as those found in Tom Oliver’s Omega 3 capsules.
- Coconut flour and oil - reduce cholesterol and triglycerides (6,7). Coconut oil is used in Tom Oliver’s vegan snack bars.
- Herbs and spices – use these to flavour food instead of relying solely on salt. Try basil, coriander, chervil, parsley, mint, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, thyme and oregano instead.
- Support blood sugar – eating sugar and ultra-processed foods can lead to highs and lows of blood sugar as well as increasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Including protein and fibre with meals and snacks helps to keep blood sugar levels stable and will keep you feeling full for longer. Adding Tom Oliver’s protein powders to baked goods and smoothies is a good way to keep you on an even keel.
- Stay hydrated – water, coconut water, herbal teas and vegetable juices are all good ways to hydrate the body. Dilute alcoholic drinks with sparkling water. Fennel, peppermint and ginger teas are good for digestion. Lemon balm and chamomile are calming.
- Be prepared - stock up on healthy foods and snacks such as Tom Oliver’s vegan snack bars, jars of peanut butter and protein powders.
Health is not just about what you put into your body but what you do each day. Here are a few lifestyle tips for health and happiness:
- Get physical – even if you can't maintain your usual exercise routine aim to get some physical activity every day. Go for a walk, dance, cycle, do some yoga or play physical games. You'll burn off calories and the endorphins will leave you feeling energised and happier.
- Take time out - A daily meditation practice can help to keep things in perspective and leave you better able to deal with all that life throws at you. Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing. If you become aware that thoughts are coming up let them go and return to the breath.
- Gratitude – whilst this year we’ve had many of our freedoms taken away from us it has been a good time to feel gratitude for all that we have, be it, the people in your life, your work, your home and your health. Think about what you have learned about life, love, work and relationships and how your experiences might guide you in the future. Reflect on what you would like for the year ahead and the steps you might take to manifest your dreams.