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Beat Holiday Stress with Healthy Holiday Themed Trail Mixes

Bioenergetics Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

An image of four people with plates eating at a holiday tableWhen you think of festive food, you probably think of special dishes that are full of flavor and colors. This is the type of food that makes us feel excited, happy, amazed, or comforted. Festive foods are meant to help improve your mood and leave you feeling celebratory. And some festive foods can also do wonders for your health. Holiday themed trail mixes are one such delicious example. Some of these healthy trail mixes can also support your body through coping with the stress of the holiday season.

A holiday themed trail mix can be made extra special by incorporating holiday flavors. Usually, this comes in the form of spices, a specific type of nuts, or a specific type of dried fruit.

A standard trail mix is a combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Typically, trail mixes are seen as healthy snacks for those who need a boost of energy during the day. However, some trail mixes are healthier than others. This is because many trail mixes contain too much sugar.

To control what ends up in your holiday themed trail mixes, and pack in as many healthy ingredients in as possible, your best bet is to make them yourself.

Foods to Help You Handle Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a very stressful time. We have such high expectations, so many expenses, so many tasks, and so many memories from holiday’s past. All these stresses, on top of the increasing stress-load so many of us carry around on a daily basis, can put your body over the edge into stress-related health problems like adrenal fatigue. Fortunately, one of the best ways to deal with this issue is to load up on healthy foods that will support your body through this time of stress, supplying it with what it needs to continue making the hormones to cope. Healthy holiday themed trail mixes are one such food.

However, to understand what types of foods are best for stress, you need to understand how your body handles stress.

When the body encounters any type of stressor, it automatically activates the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system. The NEM stress response system is made up of six circuits composed of organs and systems that work together to fight stress: the Hormone, Bioenergetics, Neuroaffect, Cardionomic, Inflammation, and Detoxification circuits.

The Bioenergetics circuit is particularly involved in producing the energy you need to handle busy holidays. It includes the pancreas, thyroid, and liver. Here, the thyroid produces hormones that increase the body’s basal metabolic rate when a stressor is detected. This ensures that the body has enough energy to cope with the stress. Meanwhile, the pancreas produces insulin to help make sure that the body’s cells get the glucose needed to give you an energy boost. And finally, the liver works to clear away any excess metabolites generated as a result of your body’s metabolism boost.

Typically, all the body systems involved in the Bioenergetics circuit return to normal function once the stressor is gone. However, if the stress becomes chronic, these body functions continue operating on high-alert until they become overworked and symptoms begin to appear.

An image of a kidney and adrenal gland with a word bubble saying cortisolMeanwhile, the Bioenergetics circuit also works in relation to the hormone circuit. Here, the adrenal glands increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol. In turn, cortisol tends to inhibit thyroid hormone production. When stress is prolonged, the adrenals respond by increasing their cortisol output, and the thyroid becomes less able to produce its hormones. This severely compromises the thyroid’s ability to support metabolism, which affects your energy levels in dealing with prolonged stress.

If stress continues, the adrenals continue producing cortisol until they can no longer keep up with demand, which results in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This comes with symptoms such as tiredness, craving sweet and salty foods, weight gain, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, low thyroid function, and more.

To recover from these symptoms, it helps to eat the right foods, especially during the stressful holiday season. Planning ahead and making healthy holiday themed trail mixes can help provide your body with the energy it needs to help get your metabolism back on track. It can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and help improve the body’s insulin sensitivity levels.

Nutritional Benefits of Healthy Trail Mixes

Aside from helping regulate the body’s metabolism, a healthy holiday themed trail mix can also help support your body in a lot of other ways:

  • Antioxidants - Many types of nuts are known to contain antioxidant properties. This is especially true for walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, and almonds. According to one study, raw and roasted walnuts contain more antioxidants than other nuts. Many dried fruits are also high in antioxidants.
  • Anti-inflammatory - When the body is under chronic stress, it experiences low-grade inflammation, which increases the permeability of the gut lining. This, in turn, makes it easier for toxins to enter the body and cause problems. Nuts in trail mixes are known to contain anti-inflammatory properties. This is because nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are a great source of vitamin E, which is also known to help reduce inflammation. And they contain a significant amount of dietary fiber, which helps promote healthier gut flora.
  • Anxiety Reduction - Eating nuts has also been shown to help deal with anxiety, which is great for lowering one’s stress levels. For example, one New Mexico study found that neuroprotective compounds in walnuts significantly helped improve the moods of participants.

Recipes for Holiday Themed Trail Mixes

As you can see, holiday themed trail mixes can be great for your health. However, if you are just adding nuts, spices, and dried fruits to your diet, and you have a health condition like AFS, it’s best to consult with your physician first. Some people with AFS can develop new sensitivities, worsened allergies, or have paradoxical reactions to food, so if you have been under chronic stress for a while, it’s always a good idea to change your diet very slowly and gently.

That said, here are a number of healthy holiday themed trail mixes to brighten up your health and your table throughout the year:An image of a hand holding healthy nuts and seeds

Get creative with these holiday themed trail mixes. Trail mixes are a great food to tailor to your tastes. And opting for organic ingredients is an even better way to support your body through the stress of the holiday season. Choosing healthy trail mixes to snack on is a great way to keep you and your family healthy throughout the year.

 
© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam's Key Question

Holiday themed trail mixes with nuts contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from this, such trail mixes also contain dried fruits, seeds, and other beneficial ingredients like yogurt chips. Together, these foods help you avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes, offer healthy fiber, and give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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