If you’re like me, end-of-the-year events brings holidays, family, friends and lots of food. Along with the festivities come tempting treats almost everywhere you go. But this season doesn’t have to mean unhealthy overindulgences followed by a harsh deprivation diet in January. Instead, here’s how you can give yourself the gift of better health during the holidays with foods and drinks that are great-tasting and crowd-pleasing.
#1: Say Cheese
Dairy sometimes gets a bad rap, but science is revealing that some types of cheese have hidden benefits. In fact, hard cheeses can actually lower your risk of developing some forms of cancer. How? These cheeses naturally contain a special vitamin called K2 (also known as menaquinone) that starves cancer of its blood supply and also kills cancer cells directly. Studies show eating as few as two slices of hard cheese a day can lower your overall risk for lung and other cancers. Try pairing hard cheeses with more cancer-fighting foods like dried organic apricots, honey, citrus jam, or almonds. Here’s a list of good choices when you go to the cheese section of the market: Gouda, Jarlsburg, Edam, Emmental, Comte, and Gruyere.
#2: Open a Red
Cheese pairs very nicely with wine, which is a health-booster unto its own. Here’s a tip: select a Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Cabernet. Clinical studies have shown red wine can increase your circulating stem cells, which maintain, repair, and heal us as we age. A recent study showed drinking 100 ml of red wine per day (about 2/3 of a glass) could increase the number of stem cells in the bloodstream. Researchers at the Angiogenesis Foundation have discovered yet another benefit to red wine: it can starve cancer cells by cutting off their blood supply. Yet not all red wines are created equal in terms of their health-enhancing superpowers. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon contain higher levels of health potency than others. Just be careful not to overindulge. Drinking 2 glasses of red per day can deliver the right health benefits.
#3: Mull on This — Apple Cider
If wine isn’t your thing and you need something to enjoy by the fire, try fresh apple cider — the cloudy kind. Cloudy apple cider isn’t clear because it has the pulpy bits of the apple. It also contains natural chemicals called polyphenols, which can suppress inflammation and halt the growth of bad blood vessels. A recent study from Italy shows that consuming apples can protect against cancer of the lung, colon, and breast. Want to increase both the flavor and health benefits of cider? Try this recipe for mulled cider with cinnamon and nutmeg, both of which have anti-cancer, tumor-starving properties.
#4: Go Nuts
As long as you don’t have a nut allergy, by all means go nuts. All kinds, in fact, can ramp up your health: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamia, pine nuts, and more. Eating nuts has been part of snacking behavior since Paleolithic times. But their health benefits have only recently been discovered. Nuts contain cancer-fighting chemicals like omega-3s, carotenoids, and resveratrol. A major study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed people who ate more nuts had a significant reduction in risk of cancers and overall reduced mortality, compared to people who ate few or no nuts. And you don’t need to eat a lot to reap the benefits — just a small handful a day is all it takes. For holidays, try a spiced nuts recipe.
Staying healthy and celebrating the holidays aren’t mutually exclusive. Just remember the old adages: choose wisely and everything in moderation.