By Dr. Oren Gersten
This time of year many people are thinking about giving. What could be a better gift than something that promotes good health? Whether given to yourself or someone you care about these 12 health gifts won’t break the bank.
The twelve health gifts of Christmas
1. Vitamin C – The best source of vitamin C is from natural foods, especially from citrus or other sour fruits. A vitamin C supplement from the pharmacy can also bolster the immune system during the cold winter months.
2. Dark Chocolate – Go for at least 80% cacao, the darker the better. Dark chocolate is superior to milk chocolate or white chocolate in terms of its antioxidant properties.
3. A visit with a cuddly pet – Even 5 minutes with a furry creature can release chemicals in our brains that promote relaxation and comfort.
4. Time outside – Going for a walk, hike, ski, or sled has myriad health benefits. In addition to exercise, being outdoors in the fresh air is a good reset during the busy holiday season.
5. Local Seasonal Vegetables – Did you know root vegetables can overwinter outside the fridge without spoiling? Keep carrots, squash, and other root vegetables in a cool dry place and cook up when you need a tasty side dish or entree. Vegetables grown in fertile soil, like in Maine, have more vitamins and minerals.
6. A hug – Human touch releases a chemical called oxytocin in the brain, which can help with stress and enjoyment of others.
7. Not a hugger? – If you tensed up at the suggestion of a hug that’s OK! Not everyone is a hugger. Receiving a gift, soaking in a hot tub, and active listening all increase Oxytocin levels as well.
8. Coffee – Regular or decaf both have antioxidants. Be wary of seasonal flavors such as pumpkin or peppermint as most concoctions will add a lot of unnecessary sugar. Adding your own sugar and cream to taste is a much better alternative.
9. A new toothbrush – It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Many people don’t realize that digestive health, heart health, and mental health can be impacted by oral health.
10. Meditation – This can be learned through a course, an app, or a knowledgeable friend. Starting a meditation practice can lead to long lasting improvements in health. Better yet, enlist a meditation buddy to keep on track.
11. Sauna – Relaxing and healthy. There are low cost options to sauna at local gyms as well as community sauna days at some retreat centers.
12. Give thanks – It may sound obvious, but gratitude improves health. It doesn’t only have to be during the holiday either. Some people find writing down 3 things they are grateful for everyday increased their happiness.
Oren Gersten is a board-certified family doctor who brings his passion for connecting and caring for people to his private practice, Portland Direct Primary Care.