By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell MagazineIt's all too easy to overdo it at Thanksgiving. Even for the most health- and diet-conscious, a little bit of this and a small bite of that can add up quickly. (Find out what the best and worst Thanksgiving foods are here.) Perhaps more depressing is that loading up on calories forces our body into overdrive as it tries to undo the damage done by the harmful free radicals produced as we digest food. (Free radicals attack cells and can promote the development of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.) And, of course, the more we eat the more free radicals we produce. If you happen to overindulge, though, don't beat yourself up about it: the best way to handle a slip-up is to get back on track ASAP. (Try this 1,500-calorie post-Thanksgiving detox plan.) And even better news is that research suggests these 5 foods can help you rebound from the damage of a rich meal.
Adding spices to your meal may help to lessen the negative effects of overeating. In a small 2011 study in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who ate a meal that included about 2 tablespoons of spices (a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika) had lower triglyceride and insulin levels and higher antioxidant levels after eating a high-fat, high-calorie meal compared to when they ate a nearly identical meal that lacked spices. Researchers think the spice blend may help slow fat absorption-and the antioxidants help mop up harmful free radicals produced when you overeat. Related: 6 of the Healthiest Spices You Should Cook With
Flavonoids, the antioxidant-like compounds in OJ, may offset the heart-damaging effects of a calorie- and fat-laden meal, suggests a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, people who drank orange juice with a high-fat, high-calorie breakfast (51 grams fat, 900 calories) had lower levels of harmful free radicals and other inflammatory markers associated with heart disease after the meal than participants who drank plain water or sugar water and ate the same breakfast.
If you've indulged in a decadent meal, follow it with fruit. Eating antioxidant-rich fruits -- including berries, grapes, kiwi and cherries -- helps minimize the harmful free-radical damage that occurs after a meal. Eating caloric meals without antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can have harmful effects over time.
Having a tablespoon of vinegar with your meal, perhaps drizzled on your salad, may temper the spike in blood sugar that occurs after eating a big, carbohydrate-rich meal. For most of us, a steep rise in blood sugar triggers an equally rapid drop, which stokes appetite. This sugar surge is particularly a problem for people with diabetes, who can't clear glucose effectively (over time, excess glucose in the blood damages tissues). Related: 3 Foods to Help Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check
The antioxidants in red wine may reduce the negative impact of high-fat foods by lowering levels of a compound -- produced in the body after eating fat -- that's linked with heart disease. Cook with red wine or enjoy a glass with dinner. But remember, moderation is key! Don't Miss: 8 Tips to Keep Your Eating In Control
How do you get back on track after eating a big meal?
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
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