The holidays are just around the corner and there will be temptation at every turn. With delicious food, fabulous wine and great company, your healthy lifestyle may take a backseat as we drive into the New Year. It’s okay to occasionally indulge during the festive season, so long as you learn how to compensate for unhealthy choices.
Leading Sydney naturopath Victoria O’Sullivan (pictured) says, “It’s hard to stay on track during the holidays. If you fall off the wagon, don’t despair. Guide your food choices with the 90/10 rule, where 90 per cent of your diet is focused on high quality nutritionally dense foods and 10 per cent is reserved for treats. Deprivation and fanatical food rules often lead to binge eating the very foods we are trying to avoid.”
Current research shows there is a strong connection between poor lifestyle choices and inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury and is necessary for healing. Symptoms include pain, redness, heat, swelling, and loss of mobility. This type of inflammation is referred to as acute, and is a normal response. But there is a second type – chronic inflammation which is a reaction in the body without an immediate injury to repair.
Chronic inflammation results from both genetic and lifestyle factors. While we can’t control our genetic disposition, we can control our lifestyle. The biggest factors contributing to chronic inflammation are excessive weight, poor food choices, cigarette smoking, UV radiation, stress, and environmental toxins such as pesticides.
“We’re going to give into temptation this festive season; it’s inevitable. The good news is that if we incorporate healthy food choices and reduce environmental toxins and stress, we can combat the physical signs of overindulging during the festive season. Make good food and a positive environment your top priorities outside festive and family gatherings, and you won’t have to play catch-up in the New Year,” said Victoria.
Victoria’s top tips to maintaining your health:
1. Reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory foods: All forms of sugar and most starchy foods are pro-inflammatory. So steer clear of sweets, pastries, biscuits, milky chocolates, chips, breads and snack foods, including rice and corn cakes. When we eat sugary or starchy foods, we trigger a pro-inflammatory release of sugar into our bloodstream, which causes our body to store fat. Eating sugary foods also triggers a spike in insulin levels, which in turn increases our appetite setting up a vicious cycle of overeating.
2. Up your intake of blueberries, garlic and spices. Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory. Berries of all types, but particularly blueberries are a delicious antioxidant super food. Spices such as cinnamon and turmeric are also super foods, as with garlic, onions and horseradish. These foods contain high concentrations of cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Lower amounts are also found in whole grains, other vegetables and beans. Dark leafy greens are another important antioxidant source. By replacing pro-inflammatory processed, starchy and sugary foods with foods high in antioxidants we work to neutralise inflammation in the body.
3. Add more leafy greens in your diet. Foods with a high alkaline content, such as avocados, leafy greens, soya beans, radish and broccoli work to help regulate the pH of our blood cells. When we eat too much acid, the body is forced to draw on its alkaline stores to balance the surplus acid. The acid then creates nasty things like yeast, harmful microforms, mycotoxins and bacteria.
4. Control your cortisol levels. In today’s lifestyle stress can be almost a daily occurrence for some, especially during the holidays. When we feel stressed our nervous system is affected and we can have trouble sleeping. Both stress and lack of sleep raise the hormone cortisol in our bodies, which regulates the anti-inflammatory response. Over time in periods of high stress and little sleep our body becomes less sensitive to cortisol and inflammation takes over. Try and get eight hours of undisturbed sleep each night and take up activities that reduce stress.
5. Control your weight. People carrying excess weight are in a permanent state of inflammation. Research shows that fat isn’t just the storage of excess energy that body has not used. Instead when not maintained at an ideal level, fat functions like an endocrine organ releasing hormones into the system prompting an inflammatory response. Excess weight also reduces the body’s ability to cope with inflammatory foods. The only answer is weight loss to reduce the body’s pro-inflammatory activity and allow it to more readily to regulate the effects of pro-inflammatory foods.
For more information, visit www.victoriaosullivan.com.au