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5 Surprising Ways Your Year-End Feasting Is Harming Your Body

December 24, 2016

Christmas. New Year. Chinese New Year. Having all these festive occasions lined up back-to-back is great for letting loose and having fun … but it’s probably not so great for our waistlines. After all, the main problem isn’t those one or two big meals. It’s the continuous stream of parties, leftover food, holiday cookies and candy that we indulge in throughout the holiday season that contribute to holiday weight gain.

According to Yuliana, an accredited nutritionist with MyKenzen Nutrition Services, “mindless snacking where you’re consuming 500-1,000 more calories than your actual body requirement can lead to 0.5 to 1kg of weight gain in just one week.”

It’s also a known fact that as little as one week of overindulging can impede glycemic control and insulin sensitivity – processes that help your body process calories and keep blood sugar stable.

Here are 5 compelling reasons to go easy on the festive feasting this season:

1. Alcohol can cause you to put on weight too.

dinner-meal-table-wine

Planning to avoid the dessert table and concentrate on your champagne instead? Think again. Alcohol has almost the same caloric value as fat! Consider this: protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.

Yuliana says, “Drinking too much alcohol will definitely lead to weight gain. Heavy drinking can also impair cognitive function, cause high blood pressure, severe weakness of heart muscle, irregular heartbeat, and even sudden death.”

Moral of the story? Drink with moderation. The recommended amount per day for men is two standard drinks and for women, one standard drink. One standard drink is equivalent to a can of beer, half a glass of wine, or one nip of hard liquor.

2. Continuous high intake of refined carbohydrates can create insulin resistance.

While Yuliana asserts that every person has a different risk tolerance when it comes to the overconsumption of sugar and fat, she cautions that continuous high intake of refined carbohydrates (such as flour and sugar) can lead to insulin resistance, the condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance, if left untreated, could eventually lead to diabetes.

food-sweet-cookies-christmas

To reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates during the festive season, Yuliana suggests “mentally eyeballing” your food. What this means is your plate should be proportioned this way – one quarter with healthy carbs, another quarter with healthy lean protein, and half with fruit and veggies. Yuliana also suggests slowing down when eating so your brain has enough time to signal your body is full.

3. Too much saturated and trans fat in your diet will increase your levels of bad cholesterol.

According to a 2006 study published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology”, a single meal that is high in saturated fat diminishes the ability of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) to protect arteries from LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and other inflammatory agents. In 2011, the “American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology” published a study that showed a meal high in saturated fat immediately increased triglycerides, which can trigger inflammation of blood vessels.

Unfortunately, festive food tends to be high in saturated fat – think red meat, baked goods, fried foods, and ice cream. What to do? Yuliana suggests exercising portion control. She says, “When helping yourself to food, use smaller plates. Many studies have observed that smaller portions are capable of providing us with similar feelings of fullness and satisfaction as larger ones.”

4. Certain cooking methods can speed up the ageing process.

grilled meat

Festive foods tend to have a high fat content and when they are cooked at high temperature (grilling, roasting, deep-frying), they can form compounds known as AGE (Advanced Glycation End-Products). Similar to its acronym, AGE are also the ones that speed up the ageing process by increasing free radicals and inflammation in your body.

Yuliana says, “One effective way to reduce AGE formation is by simply marinating the foods before cooking. Also, try exploring healthier cooking methods like the sous vide or in stews.”

She adds, “Grilled meat may also produce carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). One way to reduce them is to marinate meat with herbs and spices (they provide plenty of flavour without spiking up your blood pressure level). Other methods that have been proven to reduce HCAs include removing blackened areas before eating and continuously turning meats on the heat source.”

5. Late-night snacking can impair your memory.

Party leftovers often turn into late-night suppers … nothing quite like a roast turkey sandwich or slightly cold (but still yummy) pizza right? But these little indulgences can add up to wreak havoc on your memory.

According to a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles, eating late at night can cause changes in the brain’s hippocampus. That’s the area that is responsible for your ability to associate senses and emotional experiences with memory. Researchers from the study say gorging on food at times typically reserved for sleeping amp up the risk of altering your brain’s physiology, which can lead to deficiencies in learning and memory over time.

Of course, we’re no party poopers; we certainly don’t want to ruin your festive mood. As Yuliana pointed out, food forms a large part of our cultural identity and is part of the way we socialise. She says, “If you usually have a balanced diet, it’s alright to indulge or over-eat once in a while. Just don’t do it for weeks at a stretch! Another trick is to compensate. If you know you’ve indulged quite a fair bit for one meal, eat less or something lighter in your subsequent meal.”

celebration-turkey