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Nutrition

Beat Holiday Blues, Cravings, and Heartburn With These Expert Tips

Nutritional solutions to three common holiday health problems.

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With the holidays fast approaching, it’s normal to be concerned about your nutritional intake. A lot of us are prone to feeling stressed or sad this time of year, and overeating as a result. If you have questions about how to beat the holiday blues (will a diet change help?), combat cravings with all those tasty treats around (turns out, peanuts can help), and control heartburn, you’re in luck. Below, two experts on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, answer all three questions.

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Q: I love the holidays, but I invariably wind up stressed out and down in the dumps. Can changing my diet help my mood?

A: Eating fruit may give you an edge when it comes to your mood. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those who ate the most fruit (even if they didn’t consume the amount experts recommend for good health) scored the lowest on tests measuring depression, plus they reported the highest levels of mental well-being. (Interestingly, vegetable intake wasn’t a factor: The researchers speculate that’s because vegetables, which we’re more likely to eat cooked, lose their antioxidants and other healthful compounds in the cooking process.)

Since fresh fruit is limited this time of year, you can opt for frozen, which is preserved at its nutritional peak. Add it to smoothies or thaw it and use it in oatmeal, yogurt, and salads. Just avoid dried fruits, which are loaded with sugar, an ingredient that’s been linked with high rates of depression.

Q: My heartburn has been terrible lately, and I don’t want to rely on over-the-counter antacids. Is there something natural I can try?

A: Yes! Try aloe vera juice: A four-week study found that it worked as effectively as over-the-counter medications for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) symptoms, including heartburn — without side effects. Derived from the plant’s leaves, the juice contains more than 200 active compounds that lower inflammation in the esophagus and increase the body’s production of reflux-fighting digestive enzymes. When study subjects consumed 2 teaspoons of aloe vera juice twice daily, they reported a 71 percent reduction in the frequency of heartburn over four weeks.

One caveat: Aloe vera juice can have a mild laxative effect, so introduce it into your diet slowly, starting with 1 teaspoon before bed and working up to 2 teaspoons twice a day. If you don’t love the taste of drinking it straight, you can mix it with a non-acidic liquid like carrot juice or unsweetened coconut water.

Q: I’ve lost 30 pounds and have 10 to go. But it’s so hard to say no to my favorite treats this time of year. Help!

A: Thankfully, you don’t have to — just add nuts to your daily diet! Women often avoid them because they’re calorie-dense, but a study in the journal Nutrients found that those who ate 35 grams (about a handful) of lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts before two meals each day lost 15 pounds over six months — the same amount of weight as subjects who followed a low-fat diet without nuts. Bonus: Peanut eaters also had lower blood pressure and improved blood-sugar levels than those who skipped nuts.

While the researchers don’t know the exact reason peanuts helped with weight loss, earlier studies have found that their high protein levels significantly boost metabolism. Plus, they’re rich in good fats and fiber, which fill you up and may help you eat fewer calories at meals.

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Nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, are leading authorities on nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. They are also the bestselling authors of Rebuild Your Bones: The 12-Week Osteoporosis Protocol. To ask them a question, send an email to health@firstforwomen.com.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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