Jennifer Kraker, MD, MS
Psychiatrist, Nutritionist & Nutrigenomics Expert
The holiday season is the time of year when the excitement of festivities can take precedence over our health. But what you might not have known is that the average American gains three to five pounds every holiday season. Over a decade, that’s up to 50 pounds. With that in mind, here are some of my strategies to care for my clients’ brains and bodies:
Omega-3 fatty acids are a big plus any time of year because they increase neuronal flexibility improving the communication between neurons in your brain. Omega-3s are also one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory agents.
A few fun ways to incorporate Omega-3s are:
- By adding salmon roe to a crudité with grass-fed goat or plant-based cheeses
- Including an oyster platter as part of your appetizer menu
- Dishing up a main course of poached wild salmon with dill and cucumbers
- Adding pumpkin seeds and walnuts to your salads
Instead of sending friends and loved ones baked goods this year (or eating the ones they send you!), buy your nearest and dearest, and yourself, dark chocolate.The purer the cocoa (at least 85% or more) the higher the amount of polyphenols and flavonoids in the dark chocolate. Polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and flavonoids increase neuronal activity, which help boost the function of your brain by improving attention, verbal learning and memory. Not only will dark chocolate help your brain work better, but it can help prevent the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia too.
Holidays and champagne cocktails often go hand in hand, but how do we balance alcohol as a known toxin for our brain, with the evidence that gatherings with a serving of alcohol tend to increase social connectedness? One way is to choose organic and dry-farmed wines over brandy or choose high-grade clear spirits with bitters or citrus instead of sugar-laden fortified options. Be mindful to try and wait a few days in between cocktail parties since alcohol consumption is known to slow down your metabolism for up to 24 hours after the festivities.
Movement is the merriest way to stay on top of your health during the holidays – and always. Above almost any medication I can prescribe, exercise outperforms treatment interventions.
There’s no need to put extra pressure on yourself this season. Start where you are, whether a 20-minute brisk walk or a fast-paced run, evidence shows 20 minutes of vigorous exercise approximately three times per week is enough to ward off depression. Stay clear of the holiday blues with family walks, running holiday errands on foot, or a quick spin on your bike. Pair this with your favorite playlist, podcast or audiobook for motivation.
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