Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Science

As the holidays come to a close, we generally bemoan the large quantities of junk food we've eaten and all the money we spent. However, there are some reasons we shouldn't be so begrudging of our holiday cheer. Quite a bit of the things we do just for the holidays aren't as bad for us as we think they are.

For example, we shouldn't feel so bad about eating all those candy canes. It turns out that peppermint has quite a few health benefits, at least according the the National Institute of Medicine. Most relate to the stomach and digestive system, but there is weak evidence for improvements to the lungs and brain.

Ginger bread, my personal holiday favorite, may also be a little good for us. Ginger is chock full of antioxidants and good for digestive ails like nausea and vomiting. It also may be useful in treating pain, as it activates the inflammation cascade. For a good review of Ginger's health benefits, see this article.

Of course, what's a holiday season without a little alcohol? While you may bemoan the mornings after, the truth is a little wine and spirits may be quite good for you. Studies have linked drinking alcohol (especially red wine) to fighting Alzheimer's, maintaining heart health and may even help you stay thin and reduce the ill-effects of high-fat holiday foods. Of course, there is always a down side to the fun stuff. Even a glass a day of wine, the "heart healthy" amount, has been linked to increases in bowel and liver cancer. And there's that whole nasty hangover thing....

And while we may feel stupid about all the chocolate we ate and all the wine we drank, there is evidence that both are great for our brains. A new study found that flavonoids, found in chocolate, wine and tea, improve cognitive performance. So in indulging for the holidays we may actually have boosted our brain power.

So don't sit there and beat yourself up over your holiday choices. Sure, you may have slipped off of your intended diet or gotten a little tipsier than you expected at that Christmas party. But in the end you probably didn't do that much damage - to your body, anyhow. Your reputation, however - well, that's a whole other problem.


Barry said...

Do you have any research on Chex Mix?

Mason Posner said...

Bad Santa. Love It! Watching that over and over must be good for you.

Cunning_Linguist said...

What do the technical papers say about eating so many Krispy Kremes that you wanna barf. On second thought, scratch that. They taste too good for me to care.

Dave said...

I can't complain too much about the over indulgences of the holiday season. Those over indulgences usually stem from great times with family and friends!