Holiday food isn’t exactly known for its health benefits. When we think of sitting down with family to indulge in all the cookies, cake, turkey, and stuffing that go along with this time of year we are more likely to envision a night parked in a comfortable than a stirring 10K night-run. Indeed, you might get weighed down with deliciousness this holiday season, but there are at least 3 food items you will come across that you can count on for some serious health benefits.
First up, there are few tastes that are as synonymous with this time of year as the fresh, cooling flavor of peppermint. Found in everything from candy canes to holiday tea, it is a delicious treat you are likely to find yourself snacking on at least once before January rolls around. Well, what you might not realize about that candy cane or that cup of tea is that it is probably saving you a whole lot of post-meal pain. Peppermint has been shown to aid the movement of food through the digestive system and relax intestinal muscles. That translates to less gas and less bloating after a big turkey feast.
New mothers should also spend the holiday season reaching for the peppermint. It has been shown to help treat infantile colic and can even provide some relief from the pain associated with breast feeding. Last but not least, there is some evidence that peppermint may inhibit the release of histamines associated with allergies, which is great news if you are spending the season with relatives who have pets your body might not agree with. All great reasons to serve peppermint tea after every meal.
If you can set aside that fact that you are most likely to encounter ginger in its most sugary form this holiday season (i.e. cookies and novelty architecture) there are some serious advantages that go along with indulging in this most versatile of roots. First of all, most people know that ginger helps with nausea. Scientists are still working on pinning down exactly why it works but ginger has long been shown to be effective in treating motion sickness. Given that so many of us will be travelling so frequently at this time of year, that knowledge will definitely come in handy.
What you might not realize about ginger is that is comes with a host of other health boosts. It has been shown to help your body absorb nutrients from the food you eat, it is a widely recommended treatment for cold and flu, it boosts your immune system, and it can work as an anti-inflammatory treatment. On top of all that, ginger has been linked to colon cancer prevention and is actually used to treat some cases of ovarian cancer. Keep all that in mind next time you’re about to decapitate a gingerbread man… It’s for the greater good.
Last, but not least, in our countdown of the top three foods that you need not feel guilty about this holiday season is cinnamon. There are not a whole lot of situations where we humans resort to eating what is basically tree bark, but if cinnamon is at all representative of its kin maybe we should consider “branching” out. This humble holiday spice has been linked to treating some pretty potent diseases including Alzheimer’s and HIV. Research has shown that a cinnamon bark extract called CEppt may inhibit the growth of plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. Similarly, Cinnamomum cassia is one of only 2 extracts effective in treating HIV.
Most relevant to you this holiday season, however, is likely to be the fact that cinnamon has been shown to help mitigate the body’s negative response to high-fat meals. One study found that cinnamon and turmeric were both effective at reducing the level of triglycerides in the blood after a fatty meal. Make a habit out of eating cinnamon and your risk of developing heart disease could be significantly reduced.
So there you have it, three foods you can happily indulge in all month long. However, keep in mind that common sense should never take a holiday. Each of these foods can come laced with sugar and swimming in butter so keep an eye out for healthier ways to get your fix.