12 Holiday Gifts with a Healthful Boost

What better way to show you truly care than with a present that can enhance a friend or family member’s health and well-being? Here are 12 wonderful gifts to help loved ones get a healthy start in the coming year.

Dark Chocolate

Healthy and always scrumptious, chocolate protects against an amazing menu of ailments, says a 2011 report by the National Institutes of Health. Its flavonols head off heart attacks by reducing the stickiness of blood-clotting platelets. It also helps fight high blood pressure, strokes, cancer development, and even boosts brainpower. Most effective is chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa. For a more romantic treat, you can find unique chocolates onlinesuch as these chocolate disks decorated with ornate, edible sugar paper. 

Relaxation

Holiday can be a stressful time, but Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls provide fast relief with a relaxing self-massage. The lightweight rubber balls come with an instruction DVD to help the user melt away tension, soothe sore muscles, or target various parts of the body. Massage can also be helpful for managing anxiety and depression, improving blood pressure control and boosting the immune system, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Coffee

A cup of joe has surprising health perks. In a study published last May in New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that hot coffee may help prevent “superbug” infections such as MRSA. Another study linked drinking coffee with reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. It’s also good for the prostate, digestive health, and a positive outlook. If you want a special hand-roasted brew, shop online from artisanal roasters.

Healthy Holiday Family Activities

Singing Toothbrush

As I reported recently, cavities are on the rise. A small study found that when kids (average age 11) used a Brush Buddies Talking or Singing toothbrush, they brushed for an average of 109 seconds (close to the recommended 2 minutes), versus just 63 seconds with a standard manual brush—a 73 percent improvement in oral care. For a stocking stuffer, consider bacon- or cupcake-flavored dental floss.

Green Tea

Green tea has emerged as a super-healthy beverage, partly because it’s less processed than other teas. A British study last year found that green tea fights cavities and gum disease; previous studies suggest that its powerful antioxidants might help reduce cancer risk. It even helps fight belly fat and promote weight loss. You can dress up this gift by placing the tea in a new teapot.

Fitness Adventure App

Zombies Run! is a new fitness adventure app with a thrilling undead twist: the only way to win the race for survival is to run for real. So far, players have logged more than 500,000 miles of real-world exercise, with users posting such comments as, “Evaded all zombie mobs :-) One of my best sprints ever!” and “For the first time in my life, I feel truly alive.”

Laughter

Chuckling can actually be a form of exercise, burning about 50 calories in 10 to 15 minutes, according to Vanderbilt University researcher Maciej Buchowski. Mirth also benefits blood vessel health, blood sugar, and even mental skills, as I recently reported. A comedy DVD, joke book, or a gift certificate for a laughter yoga class can literally make a loved one’s heart rejoice!

Holiday Dessert Recipes

Walking Video or DVD

It’s easy to skip the morning walk if it’s cold and the sidewalks are slick. An easy remedy is a walking video or DVD, so no one will miss walking’s major benefits: it helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, boosts mood, and is great for slimming down.

Better Sleep

Rated as one of the best inventions of 2005, SleepTracker tracks slumber cycles with accelerometers inside a watch designed to wake users during light, non-REM sleep, so they feel refreshed. Users can download the data on a computer and get tips on improving their sleep score.

Pedometer

There’s a reason why the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends pedometers as holiday gifts. They keep you aware of how much you’re moving, and that alone provides the motivation to get up and go. In fact, a study at Stanford University School of Medicine found that wearing a pedometer prompted previously sedentary people to take up to 2,491 extra steps a day (about 1.25 extra miles). 

Fitness on the Go

If you’re giving to someone who travels a lot, or just doesn’t want to go to a gym, resistance bands or body bands can enable them to keep to a fitness routine at home or even in a hotel room. For those who haven’t worked with the bands before, consider including a video that shows exercises and how to do them properly. Another heart-healthy gift recommended by the AHA: jump ropes. They're portable and affordable, offer a killer calorie burner and help to boost bone health.

Bike Helmet

On average, even a careful bike rider may crash every 4,500 miles, reports the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, which offers a buyer’s guide to selecting the best head protection, including recommendations for brands.

More Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Don’t forget about keeping the planet healthy, too! Reduce waste by tucking your healthful gifts into a reusable grocery bag—about $2 at any supermarket.

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Get the information you need to improve your health and wellness on Healthline.com.

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