Every holiday season brings with it traditional gift ideas, whether for an office party, gift exchange with the in-laws, or your someone-special. Unfortunately, not all holiday gifts are healthy for the loved ones receiving them. Here are 3 common gifts and healthy alternatives that won’t break the budget.
1. Scented Candles
Nothing says warm and cozy for the holiday season like a scented candle. Unfortunately, most commercial candles contain petroleum-based paraffin wax, synthetic dyes, chemical fragrance, and lead-based wicks. These substances are dangerous because the chemicals are breathed in through the lungs and go directly into the bloodstream via the bronchial pathways. To avoid exposing your friends and family to these hazards, try some healthy alternatives:
- Soy Candles: http://www.ecocandleco.com/index.html and
My favorite soy candle used as lotion! http://www.myfirstecopot.com/My-Ecopot-Candles.html
- Beeswax Candles: http://www.beeswaxcandleworks.com
- Make Your Own Soy Candle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfgr0CFcJYU
2. Bath and Body Gifts
Bath salts and other body products such as lotions, sprays, and bubble bath are favorites for many. Like candles, many bath products are made with dyes, phthalates, petroleum based ingredients, and other chemicals. Because these products are applied directly to the skin and enter the bloodstream within seconds, they are especially unhealthy. Try shopping for organic products at your local natural grocers or try these healthy alternatives:
- Antho Beauty products: http://myantho.com/
- Sweet Sally’s soaps: http://www.sweetsallyssoaps.com/
- make your own warm vanilla sugar and coconut body scrub http://bathbodydiy.onsugar.com/Warm-Vanilla-Sugar-Coconut-Scrub-Recipe-9712364
3. Sweet Treats
No holiday season would be complete without a holiday treat. Unfortunately, sugars, dyes, and saturated fat make gifts like cookies, cakes, brownies, and candies very unhealthy. While natural grocery stores sell organic treats you can buy in a pinch, here are some healthy alternatives you can make at home that are low on sugar and high on nutrition:
- nutty minty carob fudge balls http://www.gaianaturopathic.com/resources_recipes_mintycarob.html
- crispy rice bars http://www.gaianaturopathic.com/resources_recipes_crispyricebars.html
- cosmic power cookies http://www.gaianaturopathic.com/resources_recipes_vegan_cosmic_cookies.html
- organic gift baskets http://www.organicbouquet.com
Traditionally, nuts hold a prominent place in most households during the holiday season. In fact, the 1892 ballet, The Nutcracker, features a nutcracker in the form of a toy soldier as an acknowledgement of its importance in most holiday traditions. Nuts, and many seeds, are an excellent addition to the holidays because of their concentration of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. Some of the healthiest include: almonds, cashews, flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. They have incredible antioxidant properties that can help heart health. Their high fiber and protein content support weight loss. In addition, they are a rich source of minerals such as selenium that are key in minimizing oxidative stress on the body. These health benefits make nuts a wonderful addition to many holiday gift baskets and baked treats. Keep in mind that it is important to purchase organic nuts to avoid the exposure to pesticides used in modern agricultural practices. In addition, consult with your Naturopathic Doctor before changing your diet. Adding in additional nuts can, for example, can affect the lysine/arginine balance in your body. This is an important consideration for people who get cold sores or who have the herpes virus. Consult your ND for individualized recommendations concerning your diet.
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The trail mixes you find at the store are often full of sugar, candy, and dried fruit that is chemically processed or coated in hydrogenated oil. To avoid the sugar and chemicals and still take advantage of the many health benefits of nuts, try making your own trail mix.
- 1 lb of raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1 lb of raw, unsalted almonds
- 1 lb of white raisins (check to be sure they are not coated in hydrogenated oil)
- 1 lb of unsweetened, unsulfured dried pineapple rings
Mix all ingredients in a large storage container. Make sure to tear the pineapple rings into bite sized pieces. You can add other fruit or nuts to taste (such as dried cranberries, walnuts, etc.). Just make sure to check the ingredients for added salt, sugar, and hydrogenated oil.
Selenium is a trace mineral that the body needs and must be supplied by eating certain foods. Selenium is essential for the protection of the cells from free-radical damage, for heart health, for the production of thyroid hormone, and for joint health. Unfortunately, due to modern agricultural practices, our foods are not as mineral rich as they used to be. Some signs of selenium deficiency are weakness and pain in the muscles, discoloration of the hair and skin, and whitening of the fingernail beds. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is critical to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor. To increase your selenium levels naturally, try eating more button mushrooms, cod, shrimp, tuna, halibut, salmon, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds. Consuming too much selenium through food is not likely, with the exception of large consumption of Brazil nuts. Consult your Naturopathic Doctor before increasing selenium through a supplement as selenium toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss, skin lesions, abnormalities in the beds of the fingernails, and fingernail loss.
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Ginger is a sweet yet astringent herb that is often used for cooking and baking. Because it is a hearty plant, ginger is usually available year round in the produce section of most grocery stores. In traditional herbal lore, ginger is used for digestive ailments. It is used to relieve gas and bloating, and to soothe the intestinal tract. Modern research is showing that it does indeed have healing properties due to its direct and indirect anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that it is more effective than many common prescription medicines for relieving the symptoms of motion sickness such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating. It’s so effective that it can be used for pregnancy-related nausea, even the most severe form, Hyperemesis gravidarum, which often requires hospitalization. In addition, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that improve symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and joint pain. Researchers are now studying ginger’s effects on colorectal and ovarian cancer. With its many varied health benefits and soothing effects on the GI Tract, ginger is great to add to your diet during the holidays. Not only does the spicy flavor pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, it can help friends and family who might have upset stomachs due to rich holiday foods.
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There is no better time to express gratitude than the holiday season. Researchers are revealing the amazing emotional and physical effects of expressing gratitude. In one study, participants were more optimistic, felt better about their lives, and visited the doctor less after writing about what they were grateful for everyday for 10 weeks. In another study, participants had a huge surge in happiness scores after being asked to write a thank you letter to someone who had positively impacted their life. Researchers have found that gratitude can even help couples. Partners who frequently express gratitude to each other feel more positive about the relationship and more comfortable when expressing relationship concerns. Even employers can benefit from expressing gratitude to their employees. Employees who are thanked by their managers work harder and have greater job satisfaction.
Here are some suggestions for increasing gratitude in your journaling practice:
- Keep a daily list of things you are grateful for.
- Write a thank you letter to someone who changed your life for the better.
- Make a list of 50 things you are grateful for about yourself.
Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377ñ89.
Grant AM, et al. “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (June 2010): Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 946ñ55.
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