Everyone has heard about holiday weight gain, and millions of people struggle to work it off or avoid it altogether by not indulging in the many feasts of the holiday season. It’s hard to say no to homemade cookies and pies, holiday dinners with friends and family, and parties with colleagues and coworkers, but are a few extra pounds really your biggest risk this holiday season? While it might be the issue that seems to be on everyone’s mind as we inch closer to Christmas (and the caloric splurge that is New Year’s Eve) a little winter fluff is hardly the greatest risk to your health this time of year. More than extra calories, people should be trying to avoid artificial additives, chemicals and other toxic ingredients that are found in many holiday foods.
Colorful, Processed and Refined
Those bright, cheerful holiday cookies your neighbor brought you might look festive but watch out. Holiday cookies are pumped full of artificial red and green food coloring, many of which have actually been banned outside the United States. In a study performed by the Slovak University of Technology, it was discovered that some artificial dyes can actually leech into the bloodstream during ingestion, where they may inhibit cell respiration, which is your body’s way of generating energy. In children with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), many artificial dyes have been shown to cause an increase in hyperactivity regardless of what food the dyes came from. It’s not fat and calories that you should be avoiding this holiday season. Instead, watch out for artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, according to naturalnews.com.
Holiday-themed sweets aren’t the only jingle-belled health risk. Most eggnog sold in stores contains artificial flavors instead of the genuine spices that originally made this drink so festive, as well as a combination of dairy liquids (extremely high in fat) and liquid sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. The majority of them don’t even contain eggs!
In the same vein as heavily processed commercial eggnog, processed meats are probably the biggest danger to your health this season. So-called “gift” sausages and other spiced holiday meats, the kind that don’t require refrigeration, are preserved using sodium nitrite – an antibacterial chemical that’s been linked to pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, brain tumors, and more.
Change up Those Traditions
While you might not have time to cook up grandma’s famous stuffing to go with your turkey, recent studies show it may be best to go without rather than pick up a box of commercial stuffing in that last-minute grocery run. Many brands contain the neurological poison monosodium glutamate. More commonly known as MSG, this flavor enhancer has been linked to health issues ranging from asthma attacks to pituitary tumors and is actually classified as an excitotoxin. Considering most people will imbibe their fair share of holiday cheer this year, it’s probably best to not to consume any additives, such as MSG, that can further damage brain cells.
After dinner it’s traditional to have a little pie, but don’t dig in right away. Most store-bought pie crusts, cookies and other sweet treats are made with vegetable shortening, which is not only a major source of trans fats – the source of a lot of that holiday weight gain – but also a source of the toxic heavy metal cadmium, which has a half life of nearly 30 years inside the human body. If you absolutely have no choice but to go with something off the shelf rather than out of your own kitchen, check the ingredients for vegetable shortening or partially hydrogenated soybean oil and do your best to choose a different brand.
It might take a little extra footwork but staying healthy through the holidays doesn’t only mean keeping the weight off. Check the ingredients of your commercial foods and, whenever possible, try to avoid these serious health risks by not buying them or by making your own treats using organic ingredients. Pull this off, and you’re sure to have happy, healthy holidays.