STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
A NUTRITIONIST at Son Dureta hospital in Palma said yesterday that although people will be eating food that's rich in fat and sugar over the coming Christmas holidays, there's “no need to become obsessed about it” because in limited quantity, there's nothing in seasonal food “that should be banned”.

Endocrinologist Gabriel Nichols said that there should be some clear reason why we gorge ourselves during this holiday period but an historical explanation most likely lies in social behaviour. Human beings are able to relate most easily to one another across divides of language and culture through the universally accepted celebration of feasting with its associated undertones of peace and plenty. In modern times, family get-togethers at Christmas will most probably mean there is more food in the house than at other times of the year.

Gabriel Nichols suggested that a good start to control excess consumption is at the supermarket and market food stalls. Make a list before embarking on a “shop” and don't buy more than you are going to eat. It's also advisable to think in terms of small amounts when the time comes to eat, avoid piling huge amounts onto the plate and don't keep going back for more. Just put one dessert out at a time so people don't develop “eyes bigger than their stomachs” and want to eat everything at once. The nutritionist claimed that the nature of food being consumed over the feast days is high in energy producing calories and therefore has to be taken in moderation. When calorific intake exceeds energy expended, the “overload” is stored as fat. A useful maxim is to think of food as “fuel,” and the body as a “tank” which has to be filled according to the tasks it is undertaking.

In our privileged society, asserted Nichols, there is no question of “going hungry” over Christmas but rather to think in terms of what over-indulgence might do to our health. A balanced outlook is recommended by doctors - a person in normal health should take some exercise to counter a higher than average calorie intake. It is also advisable to contrast a heavy cooked midday meal with a light supper. Turrón, the traditional nougat which is enjoyed in Spanish household is extremely high in energy-giving calories but the dietitian said that if you have “just a little,” there's no harm in that.

A warning was given over the consumption of alcohol, however - if consumed in very high quantities, it acts like a “poison” on the body.

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