Tips For Smart Snacking On Holiday Treats
Indulgent sweets and desserts are a holiday tradition, but too much sugar can trigger inflammation and painful flares for some people with arthritis. We have tips to help you enjoy the season’s confections in good health.
Thanksgiving and holiday celebrations are just around the corner. Cooks are consulting treasured family recipes and stocking up on baking supplies. For many families, parties and feasts are not complete without pumpkin and pecan pie, cookies, and a variety of confections. Indulgence in sweet treats is a holiday tradition, but for people with arthritis, sugary indulgence can have some not-so-sweet consequences.
The inflammation and joint pain of arthritis doesn’t take time off during the holidays. Although there is no definitive diet to address these conditions, research suggests that it can be helpful to limit foods, like sugar, that are known to trigger inflammation and painful flares in arthritic joints.
How does sugar cause inflammation? Researchers examining disease prevention through diet found that toxins called advanced glycation end products (AGE) are linked to inflammation. High amounts of sugar in our diet increase AGE levels. (AGE levels can also spike if we consume generous servings of foods that are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized.) The AGEs damage certain proteins in the body. When blood AGE levels rise, our body tries to break them apart by using cytokines—which are inflammatory messengers. In short, overindulging in sugar increases the level of AGEs in our blood, triggering inflammation and painful arthritic flares.
You could eliminate sugar and other inflammation triggers from your diet, but eliminating these foods completely is not a very celebratory solution. We have some tips to help you moderate sugar intake without giving up your favorite treats.
- Eat or drink before you head out to holiday parties. If you go to a party on an empty stomach, you’ll be more tempted to indulge. Snacking on fruit or vegetables—or even drinking a big glass of water—will help you resist the urge to reach for cookies or candy.
- Savor every decadent bite. Psychology studies suggest that when we create rituals around food, we enjoy it more than if we stand at the dessert table snacking mindlessly while we visit with friends. You can graze on raw veggies from the crudités plate with abandon, but when you select your sweet, slow down. Admire the artistry of the presentation and the heady scent. Linger over every bite. Appreciating a treat makes it even more enjoyable, and can help us to eat less.
- Chose cocktails carefully. Sweet drinks and cocktails made with fruit juice are loaded with sugar. The simplicity of a glass of wine is a better choice—as long as you limit yourself to no more than one or two glasses.
Throughout the holiday season, don’t forget the foods that are always a healthy choice. Fruits and vegetables are great options. As long as you are thoughtful about your choices, you don’t have to give up all of your favorite cookies and sweets.
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