How to enjoy the festive season Sugar is known to complicate the body’s ability to effectively manage weight. Sugar in the bloodstream disrupts the functioning of hormones and, when consumed in excess, it is stored in the body as fat.
Weight gain, especially increased abdominal fat, is a known risk factor of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are no better. They have been linked to a horde of health conditions, too, ranging from headaches to stroke. Soda, other sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar-dense foods are closely linked to the growing health problems.
Soda linked to heart attacks
Numerous studies confirm that consuming even one soda a day can significantly increase men’s risk of coronary heart disease and death.
According to a study published earlier this year, men who drank the most soda “had a 20% higher relative risk of coronary heart disease.” Regardless of age, exercise and smoking habits, body mass index, alcohol consumption and family history of heart disease, frequent consumption of soda was directly associated with heart attack risk in men.
David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D. of Children’s Hospital Boston, said: “Sugar in all its forms may be the single most important dietary cause of obesity and heart disease.” By replacing sugar-loaded regular soda with naturally sweetened alternatives, the risk and occurrence of these conditions can be greatly reduced.
Artificially sweetened drinks
Artificially sweetened drinks do not provide a safe alternative. Studies confirm that drinking artificial sweeteners vastly increases a person’s risk of stroke, heart attack and death, resulting from vascular diseases like peripheral artery disease and aneurysm.
By consuming two artificially sweetened drinks daily, a person’s waistline will grow by about 500% more than someone who drinks pure, clean water.
According to research, fatty tissue cells have receptor for sweetness. This suggests that, even without calories, “artificial sweeteners could cause weight gain by directly stimulating the development of new fat cells.”
Ludwig recommends artificial sweeteners “only as a transitional aid to wean people off sugary beverages.”
A sugar substitute is an artificial food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, but with less actual nutritional value. A natural substitution that is readily available in many grocery stores is Xylitol or Stevia.
Stevia is much sweeter than sugar and has none of sugar’s unhealthy side effects. It is also a great, safe alternative to help prevent and manage the development of type-2 diabetes.
In nature, sweet foods are packed with calories, so the brain naturally prepares its metabolism to burn those calories.
However, research has shown that when the sweetness is present, but calories are not, metabolism slows to a crawl. The brain is then tricked into eating more, and because metabolism has slowed, more calories are stored as fat.
People often say that their metabolism slows as they age, but much of this slowing is self-inflicted. Storing fat is a red flag for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a vast array of other health conditions such as chronic pain and arthritis.
Sugary, sweet drinks and foods are the ultimate example of living in the moment and not thinking about the future. We must enjoy the present without sacrificing the future. Our choices today will impact our outcomes tomorrow.
For many, the upcoming holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, or the most depressing. Excessive stress is often contagious with the added financial strain of travel, costs of presents, food and/or entertainment.
It is no coincidence that the holidays are the sickest time of the year. Poor food choices, diminished physical activity levels and excessive levels of stress can be linked to the physical and emotional symptoms of depression.
Highly processed food items are commonly loaded with carbohydrates that are a leading cause of nutritional imbalances. Nutritional imbalances create deficiencies that interfere with proper brain function and hormone balance that causes poor concentration, feelings of guilt, lack of energy and other symptoms of depression.
Sweet desserts and refined carbohydrates cause sharp fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This rapid fluctuation is known to cause irritability, forgetfulness and digestive problems.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that consuming processed foods correlated to a 58% increase in depression symptoms.
The holiday season is the most common time of the year to over-indulge in sweets.
Coincidently higher sugar consumption equates to a lower desire to be physically active. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy meats and other non-processed foods have the opposite effect.
Nutrients balance hormones
Eat for nutritional quality. A healthy mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy meats will lower the risk of depression as they will not spike blood sugar. These foods are dense in nutrients and have little sugar.
Vital nutrients support and regulate the processes of the body. For instance, B vitamins—B2, B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12—regulate the toxic amino acid homocysteine. Homocysteine is known to prevent proper brain function as seen in depression.
If the body is deficient in B vitamins, the level of homocysteine can increase and the brain struggles to manage gene expression, enzyme regulation and the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, a critical brain hormone.
Exercise and nutrition
Regular exercise also plays a key role in utilising and stabilising blood sugar levels.
Managing and preventing depression is as simple as going for a walk, riding a bike, or engaging in a physical activity of your choice.
Exercise has been shown to be more effective than anti-depressants in numerous clinical studies. Engaging in an exercise regimen not only gets you fit, but also encourages a healthier diet as well.
Supplementation has also been found to help fight the symptoms of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help the function of the brain’s neurotransmitters and increase the production of serotonin.
Mood, learning ability and quality of sleep are regulated by serotonin. Often, drugs prescribed to treat depression are designed to increase the level of serotonin produced by the brain. However, these medications often carry other dangerous, unwanted side effects.
Ensure that this upcoming holiday season is not a depressing one. It is important to improve one’s daily nutritional and fitness habits, leading up to and following known poor nutrition days. The prevention of depression is easier than the treatment of it.
You may be busy, stressed and over-worked but do not let the holidays add extra weight and medications to your life. Look at your schedule, make a plan and commit to good nutrition and physical fitness on the non-holiday days.