Health Tips: 12 Days of Christmas Holiday

It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday season. This combination of religious and national celebrations can help keep the cold winter away. But the feasts and parties that mark it can tax the arteries and strain the waistline. By eating just 200 extra calories a day — a piece of pecan pie and a tumbler of eggnog here, a couple latkes and some butter cookies there — you could pack on two to three pounds over this five- to six-week period. That doesn’t sound like much, except few people shed that extra weight in the following months and years.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Forget the partridge and let’s focus on the health and nutritional benefits of pears.

Did you know that one medium-sized pear contains 5.5 grams of fiber toward a recommended daily goal of 21 to 38 grams? When you eat plenty of fiber, your digestive system works the way it’s supposed to. Fiber helps your body absorb the vitamins and minerals from your food.

A medium-sized pear supplies 212 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps your heart beat normally and keeps your muscles working the way they are supposed to. The same pear contains 7.5 milligrams of vitamin C, which helps prevent infection and keeps your immune system strong. Pears also supply a good dose of vitamin K to help clot your blood, as well as vitamin A for your eyes.

Two Turtle Doves

Dove, a famous maker of chocolates, makes dark chocolate treats that are filled with something called epicatechin. Epicatechin is a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavoniods. Flavoniods keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries.

So it’s ok to indulge in a dark chocolate mini-treat or “two” a day. But remember, chocolate is still laden with calories. And the best way to a healthy heart is a balanced diet and exercise.

Three French Hens

A hen, or as most of us refer to as chicken, is a great source of lean protein. A 100g serving of baked chicken breast contains only 4 grams of fat and 31 grams of protein. The fat is highly concentrated in the skin, so always remove it before you bake. White meat has fewer calories than dark meat, as well as fewer fat grams. If you do get a craving for the crunchiness of “fried” chicken, there are healthy recipes that incorporate delicious coatings to skinless chicken that can be oven-baked.

Four Calling Birds

Call the special people in your life, especially if you are prone to “getting the blues” during the holiday season. You can brighten your spirits by reaching out to family and friends. Schedule a specific time to call so that you’ll be sure to connect and have enough time to enjoy a leisurely and uninterrupted conversation. Also consider volunteering at a community organization that distributes toys and food to families in need. Making someone else’s holidays brighter benefits your spirits too.

Five Golden Rings

To avoid getting those dark rings under your eyes during the busy holiday season, remember to get enough sleep each night – eight hours is the right amount for most people. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more. Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Adequate sleep is also important to your physical safety – when you’re tired your reflexes don’t work as well and you’re prone to making mistakes. On the other hand, sleep deprivation contributes to the risk of obesity and can make you grouchy – not something you want to be especially during the holiday season.

Six Geese A Laying

Eggs get a bad rap sometimes. Really… eggs are pretty much the perfect food; they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need – vitamins A, B2, B5, B6, B12, D, E and K, as well as calcium, folate, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. This is coming with 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy fats. Fixed any way, fried or scrambled (without butter of course), boiled or poached, eggs are an important part of a balanced diet.

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Seven Swans a Swimming

The holidays can bring a lot of joy, but also a lot of stress. To keep you’re head from swimming with all the things you need to accomplish, remember to do these “seven” things you can control:

  • Take good care of yourself – eat well and sleep well so that you can function at peak performance every day;
  • Don’t overcommit to activities – if you’ve self-imposed too many responsibilities on yourself, determine which ones you really don’t need to do;
  • Ask for help from friends and family – they will be pleased that you asked them to contribute;
  • Don’t expect everything you do to be “perfect” – your Christmas cookies may be a little overdone or you may not have found the gift you wanted for Aunt Betty – remember – it truly is the thought that counts;
  • Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes during the holidays – a song may remind you of a loved one who has passed away – embrace and do not bury these feelings;
  • Take time for yourself – go get a massage or go see a movie for relaxation – you really don’t need to attend all 20 parties you’ve been invited to;
  • When the holidays are over, think about all of your accomplishments and not on the things you could have done better – remember there’s always next year!

Eight Maids a Milking

Milk contains calcium, one of the most important minerals for the human body. Calcium helps your body with: building strong bones and teeth; clotting blood; sending and receiving nerve signals; squeezing and relaxing muscles; releasing hormones and other chemicals; keeping a normal heartbeat. Even if you don’t like to drink milk, be sure you get your daily dose of calcium in other foods. Yogurt and most cheeses, as well as green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, mustard greens and kale are good sources of calcium too. So are salmon, sardines, almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and tahini. And be careful about what you eat with calcium-rich foods. Certain fibers, such as wheat bran and foods with oxalic acid (spinach and rhubarb) can bind with calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.

Nine Ladies Dancing

Here are nine benefits of dancing:

  • Is a great way to make friends – A dance class is the perfect setting to make new friends and branch out socially. Being socially engaged leads to increased happiness, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system.
  • Increases energy – Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program could improve physical performance and increase energy levels among adults.
  • Improves balance – According to a study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, tango dancing can improve balance in aging adults. Dancing requires a lot of fast movement and good posture, so frequent dancing will help you stabilize and gain better control of your body.
  • Attributes to weight loss – A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging.
  • Helps your heart – Dance is a great activity for those at risk for cardiovascular disease. People with heart failure who took up waltzing improved their heart health, breathing, and quality of life significantly, noted one study.
  • Diminishes depression – Dancing really does lift your spirits, according to a study that tested the effects of dancing on people with depression. Patients who participated in an upbeat group dance showed the fewest depression symptoms and the most vitality.
  • Reduces stress – In a controlled study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, researchers found that partner dance and musical accompaniment can help bring about stress relief.
  • Improves flexibility – You can skip the ballet slippers and still reap the benefits of ballet by practicing some simple stretches. Increasing your flexibility will help ease joint pain and post-exercise soreness.
  • Improves memory – According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. Science reveals that aerobic exercise can reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory.

Ten Lords a Leaping

As the holidays come to an end, you may start thinking about “leaping” into the new year. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with good intentions of sticking to them; but we often fail. If this happens to you, try following these suggestions in 2015.

Don’t set too many goals. Trying to accomplish too many resolutions only dilutes your focus and enthusiasm.

Don’t set vague goals; be specific such as “eating healthier.” A better resolution would be “to only have dessert on Sunday” or “eat two servings of vegetables and fruit every day.”

Don’t make unrealistic goals – if a woman wants a body like a Victoria’s Secret model or a man wants muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s probably not going to materialize no matter how much work is put into making it happen. Goals to lose 10 lbs. or working out at the gym four days a week are achievable.

Eleven Pipers Piping

Whether its pipers piping or Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, music benefits our physical and mental health. Research has shown that music can reduce stress, lift moods, help you pick up the pace, and help our cortex to produce faster beta waves so we are better equipped to concentrate and focus our attention on a fairly lengthy task. So whether you are feeling anxious about all you need to accomplish during the holidays or tired this holiday from trying to get too much done in a day, get out your iPod and refresh yourself with the tunes of the season.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

You might have over-indulged with food and drink at the party last night and now you feel as if there are drummers inside your head and in your stomach. If you follow these simple tips, you can avoid having to deal with a Ringo Starr rhapsody.

Never go really hungry to a party-type gathering. You can be hungry, but when blood sugar is much too low from lack of protein, you’ll find yourself making a bee-line for the pastry table. Nibble on some protein before you leave the house to avoid over-eating at the pastry table. Here are some food suggestions: a few spoonsful of egg salad (or half of a hard-boiled egg), small scoop of tuna or chicken salad, a slice of turkey, wedge of cheese, or a handful of almonds. When you level out your blood sugar a bit before you show up to the party, you can still enjoy the food – a bit of everything, if you wish – without the urge to overdo it.

Remember to hydrate. If you are going to have a glass or wine or other alcoholic beverage, alternate with a glass of water. This will help keep you feeling full so you don’t overeat, as well as diminish the effects of the alcohol. Holiday gatherings can be just an enjoyable, without overindulging.

Avoid rich, calorie-laden beverages such as egg nog, or fancy specialty drinks.

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