From the end of October until the first of the new year, western societies celebrate the two- month-long sugar festival known as the holiday season. Many of us are frequently surrounded by the temptations of candy, cookies, parties, feasts and general overeating. During this same time colds and flu are common. Is there a connection between our indulgences and illness? Researchers in the 1970's discovered that sugar disarms our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. The body needs all nutrients to defend us, especially in the cold wet winter months.

Here are some tips to help you stay healthy during these trying times.

  1. Know your enemy. Sugar is worse than just empty calories. In order to make energy from calories, we need all the tools to do the job. We need a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals to make energy, feel good, and fight off viruses. If you think of sugar as an addictive crystalline white powder, you may think twice before indulging so much or so often. Take a look at this informative video Sugar, The Bitter Truth by Dr Robert Lustig from UCSF.

  2. Know your limits. We only require the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of sugar as glucose in our entire blood volume. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons per day, mostly hidden in packaged and processed foods. Sodas contain 10-12 teaspoons per 12 ounce can, but "healthy" and "natural" beverages can contain even more. A bottle of Vitamin Water contains 8 teaspoons and a can of Arizona Iced Tea contains 18 teaspoons of sugar. Also sugar is added to everything, including lunch meats, salad dressings, pasta sauce and peanut butter. Read the ingredients labels. Better yet, eat food that doesn't require a label: fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, meats, fish, nuts and seeds, aka whole foods.

  3. Plan ahead. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Here are some tips: Don't buy halloween candy. Most people cannot resist the temptation to "taste" it long before the trick-or-treaters come around. Give out party favors instead. Kids like glow-in-the-dark rings, whistles, erasers, and pencils because they last longer than the candy and don't rot the teeth.

  4. Eat before you go to a party so hunger will not sabotage your best intentions to be moderate and avoid the dessert table. It is easier to resist temptations or consume much less after a full meal. Eat proteins and fats to keep blood sugar at a healthy level. If it is a potluck bring a satisfying savory dish that you know will help you avoid sugary temptations.

  5. 5) If you are given holiday gifts of candy, cookies, or other sugary foods, share them. The less sugar you have around you, the less you will consume and the healthier you will feel.

There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon.

If you do decide to indulge in a holiday dessert, make sure it is of very high quality and enjoy it once, without guilt. You can choose what you decide to put in your body each day. Your choices do make a difference. You are responsible for your own health, but you don't have to do it all alone. I can provide more individualized recommendations. You can make an appointment by calling 510-658-9067. Have a healthy and happy holiday season!