Every year, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve the average American adds about two to three pounds and another inch on his or her belt due to the festivities of the holiday season. Now this isn’t going to be an article saying eat less, don’t have that piece of pie, pass on that glass of eggnog, and have a miserable time. I don’t want to turn into the Grinch. Instead I am going to show everyone some evidence-based ways to trick your body’s metabolism, burn up extra calories, stave off those additional pounds, and enjoy your holiday meals!
Tip #1 Sprinkle a little cinnamon in your life – Here’s an easy way this holiday to boost your health and nutrition. Just add one-half to a full teaspoon of cinnamon to your diet each day. A recent study from Diabetes Care randomized men and women between taking a placebo or taking one, three, or six grams of cinnamon per day for six weeks. One teaspoon of cinnamon weighs about four grams. The study showed that adding as little as one gram of cinnamon daily reduced total cholesterol by 26%, triglycerides by 30%, LDL (the bad cholesterol) by 27%, and blood sugar levels by 29% (1). Cinnamon has been shown to be extremely helpful in both patients with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. The placebo group showed no improvements in any of these blood tests. It took just two weeks to see the beneficial effects of the added cinnamon. Now go ahead and add it to your egg nog, your oatmeal, or whatever foods you choose.
Tip #2 – Get your sweet sixteen of H20 - This holiday season drink sixteen ounces of cold water each day. Everyone may know that drinking water helps one feel more full and cut down the risk of overeating. But did you know that evidence has shown that drinking cold water raises your body’s metabolic rate by 30% in men and women? Your body maintains this elevated level of burning energy for several hours after drinking the cold water (2). In fact, drinking just sixteen ounces burns an additional one hundred calories of energy each day. In two weeks, you would have lost nearly half a pound from just drinking water!
Tip #3 – Chicken soup for the stomach – Before you head out to your holiday office party, family gathering, or neighborhood get together, have a small cup of chicken soup. Several studies have shown that chicken soup or broth eaten at least 60 minutes prior to a meal causes a decrease in calories consumed not only at the subsequent meal, but also leads to fewer calories consumed the rest of that day (3-6). The chicken soup or broth also makes you feel more full, less hungry, and less prone to overeating. In short, subjects having soup prior to lunch, ate about 300 fewer calories, which translates into an extra pound of fat loss over a two week period
Tip #4 – Eat three apples or three pears each day – Right about now you are probably wondering if I have gone completely crazy. Rest assured, I haven’t. Actually my parents or my wife will tell you that happened a long time ago. Anyway one study in Nutrition had overweight women eat either three apples or three pears each day for a period of twelve weeks. This was the only dietary intervention, no fancy meals, no exercise, and no medications in this study. The end result was that the women in the apple and pear study groups lost an average of three pounds over the length of the study (7). There are many reasons from a scientific standpoint why these women lost weight. In a study comparing the ability of specific foods to create satiety, a feeling of fullness, fruits and vegetables scored the highest (8). The higher the satiety index, the more likely a person is to feel full after eating that food. Apples were one of the most filling foods to snack on, and baked goods, foods high in added sugar, were the least filling (9). Why should you care about the satiety index? Eating foods with a low score caused subjects to eat more calories over the next two hours. In fact an additional 100 calories were consumed for every 100 unit difference between two foods’ satiety scores. So next time you need a snack, reach for an apple or a pear.
Hopefully, this has provided you with some nutrition knowledge to put to good use during this holiday season. Now go out there and have some fun!
1. Khan, A., MS, PhD, Khattak, K.N., MS, Safdar, M., MS, Anderson, R.A., PhD, & Khan, M.M.A., MS, PhD. (December 2003). Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 26 (12), pp. 3215-3218.
2. Boschmann, M., Steinger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A.M., Klaus, S., Luft, F.C., & Jordan, J. (2003). Water-induced thermogensis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 88 (2), pp. 6015-6019.
3. Kissileff, H. (1984). The satiating efficiency of foods. Physiology of Behavior 32 (2), pp. 319-332.
4. Rolls, B.J., Bell, E.A., Thorwart, M.L. (1999). Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70, pp. 448-455.
5. DiMeglio, D.P., & Mattes, R.D. (2000). Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: Effects on food intake and body weight. International Journal of Obesity 24, pp. 794-800.
6. Almiron-Roig, E., Chen, Y., & Drewnowski, A. (2003). Liquid calories and the failure of satiety: How good is the evidence? Obesity Reviews 4, pp. 201-212.
7. Conceicao de Oliveira, M. (March 2003). Weight loss associated with a daily intake of three apples or three pears among overweight women. Nutrition 19 (3), pp. 253-256.
8. Holt, A., Brand Miller, J.C., Petocz, P., & Farmakalidis, E. (1995). A satiety index of common foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 49, pp. 675-690.
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