Shared meals are a highlight of the holidays. And while it’s easy to overindulge when there are so many delicious dishes on the table, desserts can be especially easy to overeat.
- A 2013 study examining how sugar and fat affect regions of the brain related to overeating showed that when it comes to food cravings, sugar has a stronger impact than fat. (1)
With a few simple tips, you can enjoy sweet treats without overdoing it. Avoiding sugar altogether might be an unrealistic option, but with the right “sugar strategy,” you can indulge wisely.
1. If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start.
For some people—especially pregnant women, people recovering from alcohol addiction, people with a family history of alcoholism, people with liver disease, and people taking one or more medications that interact with alcohol—drinking can be dangerous and harmful to health. There are other ways to boost your heart health and lower your risk of diabetes, such as getting more active, staying at a healthy weight, or eating healthy fats and whole grains.
Coverage from Swiss Re, featuring HSPH’s Frank Hu
Coverage from Harvard Gazette, featuring HSPH’s Dariush Mozaffarian
Coverage from Baltimore Sun, featuring HSPH’s Eric Rimm
For an elite athlete, a weekend warrior, or anyone just starting out on a fitness plan, physical activity does increase the risk of injury. (37) Don’t let that stop you from becoming more active, though. The health benefits of being active far outweigh any risks.
For general good health, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. (37) Yet many people may need more than 2-1/2 hours of moderate intensity activity a week to stay at a stable weight. (37)
1. Skip “quick fixes.” Fad diets may cause rapid weight loss, but they’re highly likely to fail in the long run. Avoid short-term diets and instead set realistic goals that include choosing healthy foods in smaller portions.
Walking is an ideal exercise for many people—it doesn’t require any special equipment, can be done any time, any place, and it is generally safe. Also, many studies – including the Nurses’ Health Study, (1, 2) Health Professionals Follow-up Study, (3) Women’s Health Study, (4)Harvard Alumni Health Study, (5) National Health Interview Survey, (6) Women’s Health Initiative, (7) Honolulu Heart Program, (8) Black Women’s Health Study, (9) and others (10, 11) – have demonstrated that this simple form of exercise substantially reduces the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in different populations.