Dr. C’s Holiday Gift Guide – By Dr. Alan Christianson:
Hey there, Dr. Alan Christianson here. Wishing you all happy holidays and seasons greetings and I have got some cool ideas for gifts. You know it seems that the holiday season is often about indulgence and doing all the wrong things and it just does not have to be that way. When improving your health it is really about redefining your values and its really about creating a lifestyle and an identity. So often people give gifts of candy or sugar based things and I want to talk about some good alternatives.
One thing I found lately that is wonderful is that they have laurels. They are like are all the old laurels or wreaths that are based on pine needles or even the synthetic ones. The cool thing now is you can find these now made out of culinary herbs. I have seen some that have like bay and lavender and thyme and chili and its this beautiful thing that you can put up festively somewhere in the kitchen area and you can actually use it. You can pull sprigs off of it for your cooking. So the cool thing about that is that they are decorative and totally festive but there is also a real subtle message they give someone about the value of making things from scratch and using natural flavorings. Its great because these types of culinary spices have been used for so long and for good reason. They are all big nutritional powerhouses and there all herbs that have amazing healing properties. The more you can really get familiar with them and use them and have access to them the better and teaching others about them is only helpful and really great.
Another good idea is there are some really beautiful and elaborate tea sets and there are many that are now made carefully with materials that are not led based. A sad thing is that many versions of porcelain do lead to higher amounts of led. I am a big fan of the whole ritual of hot beverages. Tea itself, caffeine or not, there is data showing that it is quite helpful. Regular teas have a variety of great antioxidants. The data is strong that they cut the risk of stomach cancers and they help to improve the body’s immune system. They also do a really good job of helping us break down our hormones more safely and to not make dangerous by products out of them. Have you ever tried white tea before? So there is regular tea. There is green tea which is just the roots of the plant. Then there is black tea which is what ice tea is made from or your regular English teas. Those are the same leaves that are toasted. Now once a season there are flower buds that form on these tea plant, Camellia sinensis that is the plant. So those flowers buds they are the source of white tea and if you have not had it it is a wonderful, wonderful food. There is this subtle almost pear like flavor to it and it is one of the most dense sources of antioxidants. The cool thing about tea over coffee is that yes tea has caffeine and if you are sensitive to caffeine you want to be very aware of that but it is lower in some of the other stimulates and Theobromine and Theobroma. So tea has less of an overall stimulate load even if caffeine is similar. Another cool thing is that tea has theanine and this is a really well documented amino acid that does wonderful things for our brain and really diminishes the stress response and the psychologically of stress and it is very positive and healing, so tea is great. I am also a fan of many herbal teas. You know chamomile tea is such a good food and there is so much data on it supporting the nervous system and being gently relaxing but not being sedative. So make a ritual and a habit out of teas and it is a great gift opportunity for some one.
Along the lines of beverages. We are always on the look out for needing more water and where do we get it and what types to get. There are some great stainless steel water bottles and some are very decorative and festive with a lot of beautiful colors and you can put a lot of thought into the imagery and colors and patterns to fit the recipient. Having them on hand is always so good to have access to water and to avoid the plastics. The data gets stronger all the time about all the new plastic derivatives you know BPA, bisphenol A (BPA) had a lot press in the recent past and now we are seeing more plastics without it. Honestly I predict in the next year or less we will find other nasty things in plastic that are not bisphenol A. You know bisphenol A was not the first bd element of plastic and there were others before it that were identified before it and taken out. So really avoid plastics and have a nice steel water bottle that someone can have and keep with them and have access to. There are even some now that have straws and systems that have filtration. That do carbon filtration so you can have water most anywhere on the go and have it clean and filtered and very effective and safe.
Another cool one and one that is always easy to do is reusable shopping bags. Again there are some that are well crafted and very beautiful and stylish and its good to always have a few on hand in the car. So it is an easy thing for a small gift or a little stocking stuffer for someone.
Along the idea of food and cooking is a real fun thing and they are the culinary herb micro gardens. So on a window ledge or even somewhere just on a counter surface area you can have a garden growing of things like chives or basil or mint and having access to fresh herbs as you are making things is just so powerful and that is a fun gift to give.
On those same lines are sprouting trays. Have you ever done your own sprouts before? It is a lot of fun and it is crazy easy. Kids love to do it and you get a lot of really good foods out of that. You know sprouting trays are simple mesh trays with a lid on the bottom and the idea is you take some seeds or nuts or even certain intact whole grains and then soak them overnight and then pour them in that tray and then cover them with a towel. Then once or twice a day depending on the ingredient you give it a rinse and then cover over it again. After the course of about a week or so you have got this thing full of amazingly good sprouts that are crazy dense in nutrients. You can give someone a sprouting tray and then also some seeds to sprout. Broccoli seeds are really cool. Broccoli is a food that we know and love and one of the best parts about broccoli is this thing called sulforaphane and sulforaphane is the most powerful way we know to engage our most powerful internally made antioxidants. There is this pathway called NRF2 and there is so much science just like pounding on the door of NRF2 and how do we make more of this. It cuts our cancer risks, it helps our longevity, it helps our detox and the list of benefits is almost endless. Sulforaphane is one of the best ways to raise it. So broccoli has that and check this out broccoli sprouts have 30 times the sulforaphane of broccoli so there a great thing.
Another fun sprouting seed to send someone with their sprouting tray is some flax seeds. I have bet you have never had flax sprouts before. They are the most amazing food. They have got good Omega3 fats and they are also very high in ligunes which have good effects upon bacteria and they keep you slim. They have shown in animals that you can swap gut bacteria and you can have the animals weight change by double or cut in half just by the bacteria in there gut so that is a big ticket to being slim and healthy and flax sprouts are a great way to raise some of those key bacteria like bifactor and you can make those with a sprouting tray.
So a couple of more holiday gift ideas along these same lines. You can always do a fruit and nut basket. You know dried fruit and nut baskets. Take a look at the ones that are free of Sulfites and some of the other perservitivesand you can find those readily. Those are pretty cool for shipping something to some one because they have got a long shelf life. There are also fresh food delivery services. A company we have used before can send out a fresh gift basket each month of fresh gourmet fruit and you can choose what type and what quantity and how much they will get and it is the kind of gift that keeps on giving over time.
If you have got someone who is thinking about their health and maybe they are a technology person think about getting them a fitness tracker. There is a big range of devices from pedometers that are only a few dollars to the advanced new fitness monitors that are coming out and they are amazing. The data is so strong about if someone is measuring or tracking there steps or measuring or tracking their sleep or their movement that in some way their health is going to get better just because they are looking at it and thinking about the numbers. It is also something that someone can use on a regular basis and they will think of you and be thankful for it.
There are a couple kitchen gadgets that I like. A simple one if someone does not have it is a rice cooker. They are so helpful for making healthy intact whole grains and also legume dishes. You drop them in there, add the water and press the button and then you are all done working. It takes care of it and cooks them perfectly and keeps them warm. Another one of the things I love are these new air fryers. So foods taste really good when they are fried because the heat seals in the moisture and the frying makes hydrogenated oils which wrecks our heart and raises cancer risk and does a long list of bad things. So regular frying is really awful but air frying is really cool because foods taste the same and they are almost indistinguishable. So you can chop up things like sweet potatoes or nice organic purple potatoes and you can do those in an air fryer and they are incredible and they are so tasty and so sealed in within there moisture. You can cook vegetables in that. You can cook lean meats in that. Completely healthy things. A little bit of sea salt, maybe a little bit of garlic or some other seasonings and that is it. Things cook really fast and easy.
Here is the gift you may not have thought of. When you ask people about something they want outside of the holiday season it is probably one of the top things that come up. So think about this yourself if someone came up to you and said hey here is a magic wand what would you want to make out of this. Many would say I wish I just had more time. What if you could give someone the gift of time. The gift of your time, of your attention or more free time or more down time. Think hard about that and how you could play that out. Our lives get so fast paced and so hectic and so chaotic. What if you went to your kids and said, here is a weekend of your choosing and this can play out however you want. A whole weekend we could go some where you want like we could do the museum. Structure the whole weekend the way you choose to and that honors your time. We can read together or play your favorite games and its a whole weekend just for you and you can call all the shots on it. What about the people you work with? What if you you can free up some of there time. Maybe they can have some extra time off spending it with their families doing what is important to them. What about your spouse or your loved one? What if you could give them the gift of time for a couple of evenings where you will really be focusing on them. Really the same idea as the kids. Pay attention to their interests and how they would like to spend their time. Just give them the attention they deserve. It seems different and counter intuitive and that is a good thing.
Our lives are often so frantic and it is often not for lack of things but it is often for lack of depth of experience and true intimacy and close attention and those things are all about time. So think closely about your loves ones and how you can really give them the gift of time. Tons of research has shown that experiences counts 10 times above material things in terms of how memorable and how important they are you to in ways that last. So give the gift time this holidays season and see how that works out. Thanks for tuning in, happy holidays and take great care. We will talk real soon.