With December finally here (I LOVE the holiday season!) I thought it might be helpful to get a Holistic Nutritionists perspective on what to keep in mind during the season so you can really enjoy it. The main things I hear about at this time of year are fat fears (the belief that having fat in your diet is what makes you fat), how people’s anxiety and depression can make it difficult to enjoy the season, and confusion on how to make healthy choices during the holiday season. Tackling this from a food perspective Nabila Bhimji takes these 3 common issues and provides you with some insight that will hopefully help make this holiday season one of your best.
What Role Do Fats Play In Our Diet? Are They Really As Bad As We Have Been Convinced They Are?
Fats are essential for optimal health and are mandatory for all of our body’s functions. Fats help keep our skin glowing, our minds sharp and our moods stable. The key is moderation and consuming the right types of fats. Here are some other key benefits to having fat in our diets, and why they are so important:
- They help to transport vitamins A, D, K and E into our body are key for the absorption of these nutrients into our cells.
- They protect our vital organs from damage due to trauma and temperature changes
- They are a source of energy and a vital component of the cell membrane
- Essential Fatty Acids are key to helping heal depression, anxiety and low self –esteem
- Essential Fatty Acids have been known to help with mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia and can help children with Autism and ADHD
- Essential Fatty Acids are also a great anti-inflammatory and help with joint pain and with keeping your gut flora healthy and boosting immunity.
- Fat surrounds nerve fibers in the brain and allows brain messages to be carried to the body faster and more efficiently.
- Fat helps with memory
- Cholesterol (HDL) is important for the formation of your stress and sex hormones
So looks like fats are not that bad after all! But not all fats are created equal. For your best health it is best to minimize the following types of fat:
Avoid these as much as possible. They are in processed foods and baked goods. They are in my opinion the worst type of fat as they are made artificially.
- Saturated fats.
These are found in meat and dairy products
- Unsaturated Fats
Theses come mainly from vegetable oil and although not the best form of fat, coconut oil and olive oil are the exception and provide numerous health benefits.
The types fats you want to consume daily include Essential Fatty Acids
EFA’s are essential because they are not made by your body, they must come from food. EFA’s are your Omega 3 and 6. Sources of Omega 3 include fish such as salmon and herring, walnuts, flax, chia and hemp seeds. Omega 6 can be found in sesame and sunflower seeds or oils. And as mentioned above coconut and olive oil (cold pressed virgin) are amazing healthy fat sources.
If I Am Struggling With Anxiety Or Depression Are There Any Foods That May Help Boost My Mood And Make Me Feel Less Stressed?
Best foods to help a person deal with depression, stress and anxiety include:
- Foods rich in Omega 3 including fish, walnuts, hemp and flax seeds
- A super food rich in minerals like zinc, potassium and magnesium and vitamin C, such as raw goji berries or goji berry powder that you can add to your smoothie. Other great super foods include raw cocoa and
- Acai berry which can also be purchased in powdered form and added to your protein smoothie. Protein is also essential for optimal mental health and mood.
- Maca powder is a natural adaptogen that helps the body deal with stress and balances hormones.
- It is also important to get all your B vitamins, especially B5 which is an anti-stress vitamin and B12 for energy.
- You may need to supplement here or use nutritional yeast in your foods or as a topping on your popcorn. It has a great nutty cheesy taste and is used extensively by many following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Do You Have Any Tips On How To Keep My Body Feeling Healthy Through The Holidays?
Holiday Eating Tips:
- Do not go to a party or event hungry; make sure you eat a healthy meal before you head out.
- If you are going to a party where there will be food, load up most of your plate with veggies, leaving only a small amount of room for sweets.
- Wait at least 20 minutes before you go for seconds, it takes that long after you eat for your brain to know if you are full.
- Focus on the people at the party and concentrate on socializing.
- Eat your meal slowly and savor each bite and you may not crave seconds or overindulge
- Bake desserts with whole wheat flour instead of white and use slow release sugars like agave or honey, or stevia. Dates and apple sauce are also great substitutes for sugar.
- Eat turkey instead of beef
- Drink alcohol free eggnog
- Other healthier holiday foods include: Sweet potatoes, pomegranates, pecans sprinkled over a nice salad, roasted pumpkin sprinkled with nutmeg or cinnamon.
- And my favorite: Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Blend half an avocado with raw cocoa powder (to taste) and a table spoon of agave in a blender until smooth. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour and enjoy!
- Check back in in 2 weeks when I give you some tips for how to get through this season with more joy, less anxiety and lots of self care! In the meantime, I hope this helps you and gives you some ways to enter into the season with tools that will help you feel successful and happy the whole month long!