Nutrition Expert’s Tip of the Month – December

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“Staying Well During the Holidays”

How many times have you taken a vacation and gotten sick during the trip? Too often this happens because our bodies have been so stressed out gearing up for tests, deadlines, finals and projects that we haven’t given our bodies any time to relax and recuperate. Stress and heightened emotion can continue even after the stressful events if we don’t learn to manage it and know how to reduce it. If you or someone you know is stuck in the stress cycle, here are some tips to keep you healthy during the holidays so you can really enjoy your time off:

1. Continue exercising – although you may feel like just lounging your whole break, exercise actually helps to offset the effects of stress on the body and will improve your mood by offsetting nervous energy. Make sure you exercise at least 3 hours before bed-time so you sleep restfully.

2. Don’t become a sugarholic – don’t give in to the social pressures of eating dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Excessive sugar intake promotes inflammation, so you can actually induce your immune system into a compromised state. Not only that, excessive sugar intake is one of the main reasons why people gain weight over the holidays.

3. Eat healthy carbs everyday – Healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, pasta, potatoes, and whole grain breads trigger the release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter known to promote relaxation and a feeling of calmness. A few servings of these types of foods everyday will help to relieve stress and anxiety.

4. Reduce high-fat foods – High fat foods such as ice cream and fried foods act as immune depressants and can disrupt sleep patterns if eaten late at night. If you want to wake up feeling rested, eat a low-fat dinner.

5. Eat your vegetables – Green, yellow, and orange vegetables have the right kinds of nutrients that support immune function and help increase your brain’s production of serotonin.

6. Don’t forget to sleep – living on caffeine for the extra adrenaline, and limiting sleep mimics the effects of long term stress in the body, eventually leading to a breakdown. Alternative to coffee: black tea…1/3 of the caffeine.

7. Take a break – Even if you are cramming for finals, you will do yourself and your brain wonders if you take a break. Soak in a hot bath, paint, read a good book, meditate or just take some deep breaths. This will allow your body to relieve some of the stress so it doesn’t keep building up.

~ Natalie Butler

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