6 tips for staying healthy this holiday season

It's time to set our 2019 new year's resolutions but, with the Christmas season upon us, some of our health and fitness goals may begin to fall on our list of priorities. The summer season is often a time of overindulgence and little exercise. Did you know that on average, Australians gain up to 1.5kg over the Christmas period? This weight can be hard to shake off in the new year and can lead to further health complications, including unhealthy skin.

Here are six tips to staying healthy over Christmas and the new year.

1. Eat more antioxidant-rich foods

Antioxidant-rich foods are important because they can neutralise the free radicals that damage our cells and accelerate ageing. Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules created by oxidation through pollution, preservatives, additives, radiation, smoking or sun exposure. Antioxidant-rich foods are usually brightly coloured red, orange and yellow.

water2. Drink enough water

Dehydration is a common enemy at this time of year, as the weather is warmer and we tend to drink more alcohol. Loss of water adversely affects our skin, making it feel dry and papery, and can also decrease our mood and energy levels. So, it's important to increase your water intake and drink at least eight glasses of water every day, or more if you are sweating or exercising. Sports drinks are also a great way to re-hydrate and replace electrolytes lost through sweat.

chocolate3. Eat dark chocolate

Yes, you read that right: eat more dark chocolate. Dark chocolate may help protect against skin damage caused by UV radiation, while also increasing blood circulation to give your skin a fresher glow. It is also known to improve mood and memory, and is a good source of magnesium. Dark chocolate with more than 70 per cent cocoa is best because it has less sugar.

4. Exercise

It may not be as fun as eating chocolate, but exercise is always an important part of our daily routine that shouldn't be forgotten! Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can make a difference to your health. Find something you enjoy, like a walk in the neighbourhood or a swim at the beach to keep moving.

5. Drink juices containing natural diuretics

Foods containing natural diuretics can be juiced to create your own nutrients-packed smoothies, including celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, beetroot, and pineapple. These foods help the body to increase urine output which flushes out toxins, reduces fluid retention, and can help you feel less bloated and looking slimmer. Fresh juice is also a good way to get your daily intake of vegetables.

6. Get enough vitamin D... but not too much

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, mood, and regulation of sex hormones. The best way to get enough vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun without protection for around 10 minutes each day. People with darker skin will need longer. However, after your body has soaked up enough vitamin D, it cannot hold anymore, and time spent in the sun actually does more harm than good. After just a short time, your skin will start to tan or redden, which means the cells are in trauma and becoming irreparably damaged. This damage is what leads to premature ageing and skin cancer.

Supplements are available for people with low levels of vitamin D, which can happen if you are unable to expose your body to enough sunlight either because the risk of being sunburn is too high, or because there is not enough sun where you live. People with vitamin D deficiency can feel fatigued or depressed, or have low libido or brittle bones. You should speak to your doctor before beginning a course of any supplements.

An easy health item you can tick off your list this summer is a skin cancer check. It's quick, painless, and could save your life.