Keep Your Cholesterol in Check This Holiday Season
The holiday season is upon us! It’s the most wonderful…and let’s face it, indulgent…time of the year.
It’s really not uncommon for most Americans to gain a few pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And while you should be able to relax and enjoy yourself during the holidays, letting yourself go too much can cause more problems than it’s worth.
This is especially true if you deal with high cholesterol. The decisions and choices you make now can set you up for success and health in the new year.
Here are some ways you can get through the holidays without your cholesterol levels getting off track.
Keep Your Diet Healthy
Holiday foods and treats are undeniably rich in carbs, sugars, fat, and calories.
Mashed potatoes, pasta-based dishes, stuffing, and gravy are all standard staples. But these types of dishes usually contain ingredients like cream, milk, and butter—all of which aren’t the best choices for keeping cholesterol in good range.
A better alternative is mashed cauliflower. If you simply can’t let go of carbs, choose a baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon, which not only adds a delicious kick but also helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
When it comes to meat, dark meat typically has higher fat content than white meat, so choose the leaner white meat.
But where most people get derailed around the holidays is with desserts and alcohol.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little bit of either. In fact, red wine, in small amounts, can be beneficial for heart health and cholesterol. But it’s really important to not overdo it.
In addition to the inevitable miserable hangover, too much alcohol is bad for your heart and cholesterol. Not only that, alcohol is high in calories.
If you’re going to drink, take your time. Nurse your beverage and have a glass of regular or sparkling water in between each alcoholic drink.
Desserts and sugary treats are another huge temptation. If you’re concerned about how these foods could affect your cholesterol, but you don’t want to miss out on them, try sampling a few small bites instead of eating an entire piece of cake or pie.
During the holidays, exercise routines are usually thrown off. Between shopping, cooking, entertaining, and traveling, working out usually takes a back seat.
But exercise is an incredibly important factor in reducing cholesterol. It helps maintain healthy cholesterols from several angles.
For one, it moves LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from the blood so it doesn’t stick to blood vessel walls, which can eventually turn into artery-clogging plaque. Instead, LDL is moved to the liver, where it is processed and excreted from the body.
Additionally, exercise increases the size of lipoproteins. These are protein particles that carry cholesterol throughout the body. The bigger these particles are, the more easily they travel through the body. Smaller, denser particles are more likely to get trapped in blood vessels. Over time this can lead to plaque buildup.
If going to the gym is more difficult this time of year, try to fit movement in whenever you can into your normal day.
Get creative. If you’re at the mall, do laps around the building while you’re shopping. If you’re at home baking, do 15 minutes of lunges, squats, pushups, and sit-ups while you wait for food to come out of the oven.
If you’re with family, go for a walk together after dinner. Or play a game of football, soccer, or street hockey while dinner is in the oven.
Remember, any kind of movement is better than none. Once the holidays are over, get back to your normal exercise routine and stick with it!
Take Time to De-Stress
Being with family can be fun, but also stressful. Constant cooking and baking, hosting big gatherings, traveling, shopping, spending more money than usual…all these can definitely add stress to your life.
Be sure to take time out of your day to de-stress. Do whatever you need to do in order to let go on tension.
Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are great options. If you’re into journaling, sit in a quiet spot and start writing.
When all else fails, leave the stressful situation and go for a walk outside. This will help melt stress away and provide exercise as well.
Take Cholesterol-Supportive Supplements
If you currently take a cholesterol-lowering drug like a statin, make sure you continue. Don’t let the craziness of the holidays get in the way of your medication routine.
If you don’t, and you’ve been told you have moderately elevated cholesterol, now is the perfect time to start supplementing with nutrients that can naturally lower cholesterol. It takes a few weeks for results to really kick in, so start now!
Phytosterols are a good one to try. Sterols are naturally in plant-based foods. They have a similar molecular structure to cholesterol. They work by stopping the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol. So instead of attaching to artery walls, cholesterol leaves the body as waste.
Phytosterols are naturally a component of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
However, for true cholesterol-lowering effects, you need to consume massive amounts of these foods—research suggests 2 to 3 grams of plant sterols per day. That’s the equivalent of 50 apples or three heads of lettuce daily.
For this reason, the best option is to take a plant sterol supplement. Fortunately, these are widely available.
Bergamot is a bitter citrus fruit native to the Calabria region of Italy. In supplement form, bergamot lowers LDL cholesterol almost as effectively as statins.
In a recent clinical review of bergamot, 75% of the studies reviewed showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL.
The recommended dose is 500-1,000 mg per day, in divided doses and taken just before eating. For best results, be sure to choose a standardized extract such as Bergavit®. Newport Natural Health’s Cholesterol Support supplement contains this extract, along with vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is important because it supports cardiovascular health by inhibiting calcification in the arteries and keeping arteries elastic. Research shows K2 also may play a role in reducing cholesterol.
In conclusion, don’t let the holidays derail your efforts to keep your cholesterol in check. Be mindful about overindulging, but still enjoy yourself and the many delights of the season. And once the new year rolls around, get back to your good habits, which should include healthy diet, regular exercise, and cholesterol-supportive supplements like bergamot.