The holiday season can be a perilous one, nutritionally-speaking. Knowing which foods to indulge in and which to skip is the difference between a consequence-free feast and feeling lethargic and foggy for big chunks of the next month. Here's a few tips you can use to navigate holiday eating like a pro.
1. Know How To Indulge
Indulging in delicious foods is a huge part of the appeal of holiday meals, right? I certainly don't want to miss that element myself, nor do I want to suggest anyone else deprive themselves (unless you want to). But there are smart ways and dumb ways to indulge. Here's some guidelines:
- Don't Worry About The Calories - Or fat for that matter. You can eat thousands of healthy calories in a sitting and you'll still come out in pretty good shape. Your body can only store so much fat from a single meal, so you're not going to add a pound of fat just because you ate a single giant meal. Having a huge amount of food in your stomach slows down digestion and prevents a huge release of insulin (the body's primary fat-storing hormone).
You Can Eat Your Sweets - Sugar itself is not what's going to kill your energy levels for days to come, especially at the tail end of a meal when your stomach is loaded. Like I mentioned above, sugar is an issue when it digests really quickly and creates a big spike in blood sugar (and thus, insulin). All the food in your stomach prevents this from being too much of an issue. That being said, don't go too crazy with dessert or you may end up eating so much sugar that you negate some of the digestion-slowing effects.
Sugar and fruits are generally pretty low toxin, but watch out for desserts made with flour (like cake and pie crust), as they can potentially be mycotoxin-bombs (meaning the desert will negatively affect you long after the sugar is digested).
- Squashes, Potatoes, Greens - Go crazy. These are all very safe, low-toxin foods that you should feel OK about indulging in.
Easy On The Grains - This is THE big thing to look out for in your holiday eating. Wheat and corn tend to be EVERYWHERE in holiday dishes. If you're not careful, you can end up subjecting yourself to a huge dose of mycotoxins. This is what WILL kill your energy levels and mental clarity for days after the meal.
Grains also tend to be some of the more pro-inflammatory foods out there. The gluten protein in wheat gets a lot of attention for this reason. If the foods you eat are creating a big inflammatory effect in your body, you're pretty guaranteed to feel and perform below-your-best for days afterwards.
- Easy On The Meat and Dairy - Same reasons as above. Meat and dairy accumulate toxins, and are the foods most likely to cause you to feel less-than-awesome in the days to come. I'm not necessarily saying to avoid these altogether, just load your plate with relatively safer foods and savor your smaller portions of the meat and dairy. The only exception here would be if your meat happens to be from a 100% pasture-raised organic source that never feeds their animals grains. If this is the case, eat to your heart's (or stomach's) content. (sorry, I can almost guarantee your turkey will NOT be pasture-raised).
- Watch Out For Fried Foods - Fried foods presents several risks. One, frying generally happens in vegetable oils that are rich in pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fats. On top of that, vegetable oils are also notorious for being contaminated with mycotoxins and toxic additives from processing. Also, if your cook uses a low- or medium-temperature oil for the (high-temperature) frying, you're going to be eating a ton of toxic oxidized fats as well. (more on Omega 6 here. more on cooking oil oxidation here).
2. Choose Your Alcohol Carefully
Drinking is a big part of most people's holiday celebrations. So drink intelligently. The risk from moderate drinking (heavy drinking obviously has its own dangers) comes primarily from exposure to toxins. Even fancy craft beers are made with low-quality grains that are almost-guaranteed to be contaminated with mycotoxins. All of your diligence about going easy on grains will be for naught if you wash your meal down with a few beers. Wine and liquor drinks make much safer choices. (more on the best alcohols here).
3. Hydrate! (Do It For Your Colon)
Eating a few thousand calories in one sitting and forgetting to hydrate throughout the rest of your day is a pretty sure way to some unsatisfactory bowel movements the next day(s). It's no secret - when your digestion is out of rhythm, your energy and cognitive performance will be affected as well.
Staying properly hydrated post-meal will also help your body clear out any toxins it's processed and is now trying to remove.
4. Don't "Veg Out"
Unfortunately, planting yourself on the couch the rest of the day post-meal is not the best idea. Going for a walk after your meal will allow your body to use some of the sugar that's in your bloodstream from early digestion (thus reducing the insulin response). Moving will also stimulate digestion and help prevent digestive issues.
5. Supplements To Protect Your Metabolism
Your number one concern in holiday eating is not calories, or fat or tryptophan. It's toxins. Many foods that are traditionally included in holiday meals come with high-risk for toxin contamination. Grains (especially wheat and corn), turkey and other meats, dairy and beer are all notorious for contamination by mold toxins known as mycotoxins. (more on the mycotoxin problem here).
These toxins cause systemic inflammation and are known hormone and metabolism disruptors. Exposing yourself to significant levels of mycotoxins is a sure way to throw your body and brain out-of-whack for days after your meal.
Avoiding toxins is always the best strategy (more on this below), but unless you're eating very carefully at your holiday dinners, you're guaranteed to expose yourself to some level of toxins. Fortunately, there's preventative measures we can take to neutralize the effects of the toxins that do make it into our bodies:
- Chlorella Tablets - Chlorella is the most potent dietary source of chlorophyll, the compound plants use to turn sunlight into energy. When we consume chlorophyll in our diets, it becomes a powerful natural defense mechanism. In the body, chlorophyll binds to toxins such as heavy metals and mycotoxins and neutralizes them such that they cannot disrupt cellular processes. This process, known as chelation, allows the body to safely excrete the toxins. Chlorella is available relatively cheaply in tablet form. You can order them from Amazon, but to get them in time for Thursday, you can also get them Whole Foods or any other well-stocked natural foods store. Take a total of 3-4 grams (usually 3-4 tablets) of chlorella immediately before eating your meal.
- Pre-Loading Antioxidants - The body's primary strategy for neutralizing toxins is via antioxidants. Rather than binding to the toxins in the way chlorophyll does, antioxidants neutralize toxins by donating an electron to the toxin - in effect canceling the toxin's ability to oxidize and disrupt important enzymes and other processes in the body. On the day of your big meal, eating loads of antioxidant-rich foods will boost your body's built-in toxin defense system. Of the things that might make it to your dinner table, dark chocolate and artichokes are the best bets for providing the level of antioxidants necessary to have a big preventative impact. I suggest finding ways to include antioxidant-powerhouses like raw cacao or acai into your day. Our product, Synchro Genesis, is loaded with both raw cacao and acai (as well as chlorella). If you want to be particularly clever, bringing a dessert made with raw cacao to your dinner is a good way to sneak some antioxidants into your meal. May I suggest raw cacao truffles like Synchro Spheres?
- Fish Oil or Krill Oil (Omega 3's) - Our bodies need both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats for optimal function, but a balance between the two is needed to keep systemic inflammation in check. Holiday meals tend to be heavy on vegetable oils, which are incredibly high in Omega 6 fats. Taking 2-3 grams of fish oil or krill oil before your meal will help preserve your balance. (more on Omega 3's here).
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