Eating healthy for the holidays

It’s just over a week before Christmas and for those who celebrate the season, it is a time of merrymaking and feasting. It is also a time of increased stress, as individuals attempt to ensure that everything is perfect for the big day – shopping for presents, cleaning, cooking and baking.

On the matter of feasting, the Heart & Stroke Foundation is advising that one of our favourite Christmas treats, black cake, may be doing more harm than we think.

“What makes a black cake dark is how much browning you use, and also how long you soak the fruit in liquor. As such, this type of cake may now have significantly more calories when compared to a similar cake without the liquor.”

The Foundation cautions that consuming too many calories can lead to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes.

“It must be noted that persons who may have had cardiovascular disease must think twice about consuming – and the quality of – the black cake they choose to take. Along with the alcohol content within the cake, the sugar and sodium ingredients must also be noted.”

The Foundation also noted that some individuals tend to eat the black cake along with drinking an alcoholic beverage, and that could pose a threat to their health.

“Too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in the blood, called triglycerides. Excessive amounts of alcoholic consumption could be harmful by increasing the risk of high blood pressure, for which diabetic patients are already at high risk.”

The Foundation added that statistics show a significant increase in the rate of heart attacks and strokes in Barbados during the festive season. It says people should take every precaution to ensure they remain in good health.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation recommends a few small but significant measures that can be taken to minimize the risk of cardiac arrest and strokes during Christmas:

(1) Reduce sodium intake. “Look out for the well-seasoned foods. [There is] just a bit more salt in the diet this time of year. This is a culprit which can be avoided. Think ‘more salt, higher blood pressure’.”

(2) As much as possible, try to minimize stress, as it can be found in many forms. “We all know that stress is having to deal with the traffic into and out of the shopping areas. Stress is standing in that long line for service or dealing with cranky customers.”

(3) Take your medication. “A brief chat with quite a few of our medical doctors highlight that a number of persons do not take their medication.”

(4) Get adequate rest. “Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure. Maybe it’s the tradition of preparing the house for the season – curtains, floors, window s – and not getting enough sleep. Rest is important.”

(5) Protect yourself against cold and flu. “There is a new superbug going around. Persons are complaining of feeling ill and demonstrating all of the familiar flu-like and cold symptoms.  However, persons must be aware of some decongestants and over-the-counter medicines, and seek their doctor’s advice.  Some of the decongestants increase blood pressure.”

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and healthy Christmas!

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