Here come the holidays, and with them that perennial worry: holiday weight gain. Why wait till January’s oft abandoned resolutions to start improving your health and defending your waist line? Here are a few useful tips…
Many herbs and spices boost metabolism and improve digestion. One of my favorites is cumin. Besides lowering blood sugar, it also helps boost digestive enzymes and increases the release of bile from the liver. Bile helps digest fats.
Pairing nicely with cumin is oregano. Oregano contains carvacrol, which may help control fat synthesis. Ginger is another useful seasoning that is easy to deploy. It also has many collateral health benefits.
The capsaicin in hot chili peppers can boost your metabolism and reduce hunger. Turmeric is yet another handy seasoning that blocks the synthesis of fat and is anti-inflammatory, which could help with food sensitivities.
Cardamom is less commonly found in spice racks, but like ginger it’s thermogenic (it triggers your body to burn more calories and generate heat) and it can reduce gas and bloating. Curiously, cardamom increases gas production in yeast, so it’s great to add to your breads!
Saffron is another relatively rare seasoning that has amazing health benefits, including lowering blood sugar, increasing metabolism and improving mood, thereby reducing holiday depression and stress, which can affect weight gain. Don’t be scared of the high price of saffron — a little will last a long time!
Here is my “recipe” for a delicious tea that has benefits including lowering blood pressure, blood fat and blood sugar. It contains cancer-preventing compounds, increases weight loss, boosts the immune system and is good for the heart. It’s also an anti-inflammatory digestive aid that’s exceptionally high in antioxidants. It reduces appetite, is an aphrodisiac, and reduces PMS symptoms. It also boosts mood and reduces depression symptoms, increases mental clarity, and is anti-bacterial and anti-viral, as well as somewhat analgesic. This tea is good hot or cold. You can even add kombucha or seltzer to it for a little zip and sparkle.
1 tbsp hibiscus flowers (dried)
1 tbsp rose hips (dried)
5-8 threads of saffron
1/2 tsp galangal root
1 quart hot water
Fenugreek and cinnamon both reduce appetite. Fenugreek is delicious and has many health benefits, including lowering blood sugar and boosting libido (another fine way to burn calories!). Cinnamon is an antioxidant and helps lower your blood sugar, so add some to your eggnog!
Herbs and spices are less expensive than you might think. A larger selection can be found in the bulk spices section of your local health food store or co-op. Up to $3 of every bottle of spice is just the cost of the packaging, so bulk is the way to go.
There are also metabolism-boosting foods. Start by switching to healthier oils. Coconut, avocado, and olive oil are healthy oils to use; especially coconut oil, because of its medium-chain triglycerides, which go directly to the liver to be converted to energy. This makes it less likely to be stored as fat. When roasting a chicken or turkey, consider using neutral coconut oil in place of butter for basting. It also has a higher smoke point, which means higher temperatures can be used, creating a crispier golden skin!
High-protein foods can help, too. They take longer to digest, keeping you feeling full longer, and increase your metabolism by raising the thermic effect of food, which is how many calories it takes you to digest and process the food. Meats, seeds, nuts and leguminous vegetables all are high in protein. Hummus is a great option for a dip containing high vegetable protein, and is especially good with some added cumin and turmeric.
Coffee and teas containing caffeine can boost your metabolism. Often I will use oolong with dehydrated cranberries, or my saffron, hibiscus and rose hips tea in place of water when making an icing for cake, or when making bread, for a vibrant but subtle mystery flavor.
I look forward to sharing more tips and strategies with you all in the coming year. Happy holidays, people!