What are the holidays if they don't include the enjoyment of the season's parties, dinners and cocktails? While it's old news that this time of year can take its toll on our weight, the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter reports other possible adverse health consequences related to our indulgences-especially if we have pre-existing heart disease or associated risk factors.
According to the publication, large high-fat meals may raise our heart rate, serum triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure. This kind of eating triggers the release of the stress hormone, norepinephrine, which increases blood pressure and heart rate.
Our blood vessels' ability to dilate or expand when necessary can also become impaired.
And digesting super-sized meals, of any kind, may elevate our heart rate because of the heightened physiological demands on the intestinal tract. To balance out our noshing and imbibing over the holidays, stick to lighter fare between feasts. Consider broth-based soups, real juice smoothies, fresh fruit and veggies and salads.
Here's a winter salad with ruby, gem-like pomegranate seeds and snowy-white tufts of goat cheese, which give it a festive touch. Extracting the seeds from the fruit can be tricky. Although I've tried many ways of harvesting these little suckers, my kitchen almost always ends up covered in juice splatters reminiscent of a crime scene in the TV show Dexter.
The best method I've found for avoiding a bloody-looking mess is filling a clean kitchen sink with cool water and while holding the pomegranate under water against the bottom of the sink, carefully cut it in half with a sharp knife. With the fruit still submerged, separate the seeds from the membrane using your fingers. Then, quickly scoop them out of the water to a waiting sieve to drain well.
Pear Pomegranate Salad (serves 4)
What You Need:
1/4 cup slivered almonds, plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, finely minced (about one heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
6 cups of baby-leaf spinach
1 large red Bartlett pear, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, plus 2 tablespoons
What to Do:
Place almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast nuts until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool and set aside.
Place olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add shallot, honey, salt and pepper. Whisk well. Set aside. (Prepare at least two hours ahead of time. Vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for about a week).
When ready to serve, combine spinach, pear, goat cheese, 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds in a large salad bowl.
Gradually add vinaigrette and toss until ingredients are lightly dressed.
Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons of almonds and pomegranate seeds.
Linda Watts is a registered dietitian. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.