Christmas Decorations and Candy Canes

Nutrition Tips:
Holiday desserts

With the holiday season approaching fast, desserts and candies are aplenty. Knowing which of these foods have the best health benefits may be able to reduce the stress paired with holiday eating. Simple herbs and spices such as peppermint, vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate might be healthier than one may think.

Peppermint is an herb often used in cooking in the extract form. Commonly seem around the holiday season in candies such as candy canes, peppermint holds many health benefits. Peppermint improves digestion health and helps food to move through the stomach more quickly. It can also help reduce stomach upset by reducing the feelings of nausea.

Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and B2 can be found in peppermint which help to fight off cancer causing free radicals in the body. Numerous minerals such as manganese, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate and copper are present in peppermint as well.

Vanilla, similar to peppermint is typically used in the extract form in cooking. It also has free radical reducing antioxidants which can reduce the risk of certain diseases and cancers.

The scent of vanilla can help to reduce anxiety. As mentioned on, a study done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York showed that patients suffering from claustrophobia had reduced symptoms after being exposed to a vanilla aromatherapy.

Cinnamon, a well-known spice is commonly used in holiday cooking. It can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar, which can aid in diabetes control. Cinnamon is also an anti-inflammatory for the inner organs so it aids in reducing the risk of heart disease.

As noted on, cinnamon increases metabolism by about eight percent for nearly twenty minutes. The scent of cinnamon can also have a beneficial effect on memory by improving it. Fiber, manganese, calcium and iron are all minerals found in cinnamon.

Chocolate by itself is a well-known candy. Being a candy, dark chocolate automatically seems to lose all nutritional notation, however, it is quite healthy. Dark chocolate can help improve heart health. Based on a nine year Swedish study, risk for heart failure in women who ate two servings of dark chocolate per week was decreased by as much as one third.

Dark chocolate can assist in weight loss because unlike lighter chocolates, dark chocolate is more filling so it prevents hunger for longer. It also can reduce stress by leveling hormone levels.

A study conducted by a researcher at the University of Nottingham found that dark chocolate consumption can increase brain activity for two to three hours by increasing blood flow to key parts in the brain. 

Avoiding those holiday desserts and candies might be a challenge, but knowing which ones have the greatest health benefits may reduce the guilt.

Holiday Celebration Calendar

Looking for something to do over winter break? Check out these local holiday attractions.

Festival of Lights
Where: River Forks Park
When: Nov.18-Jan. 1
Time: Sun-Thurs 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.,
Fri-Sat & Holidays 5:30-10:00 p.m.
Cost: $8 per car

UACT's A Christmas Carol
Where: Betty Long Unruh Theater
When: Nov. 15-Dec. 16
Time: Fri & Sat 7:30 p.m.,
Sun 2 p.m.
Cost: Adults $10, Youth (12 & under) $5
Tickets are sold at the following locations:
UACT Box Office
Hanson Jewelers
My Coffee
While Away Books

Christmas Fair
Where: Douglas County Fairgrounds
When: Nov. 30 - Dec. 2
Time: Fri & Sat 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.,
Sun 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Cost: Adults $4 ($1 off with canned food donation), Youth (12 & under) free


Holiday Recipes

Candy Cane Cookies


½ cup butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. red food coloring


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, egg, peppermint and vanilla until smooth. Add in the flour and salt. When completely mixed, divide dough into two halves. Mix the food coloring into one of the halves. From each dough half, take a tablespoon of dough. Roll each tablespoon of dough into a four inch rope. Lightly press the two ropes together and twist them. Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Curve the top of the rope to make a candy cane shape. Bake each dozen for about eight minutes or until set. Do not overcook. Remove from baking sheet onto cooling rack.

Hot Chocolate & Marshmallow Dippers


24 regular sized peppermint candy canes
24 marshmallows
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp. vegetable shortening
Wax paper
Hot Chocolate:
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 cups of milk
Optional: ½ cup heavy cream (For thicker hot chocolate)


Take the candy canes and carefully break off the curved ends leaving two parts: the curved end and a straight stick. Put the curved ends in double bagged zipper storage bags and crush into tiny pieces. Put the candy pieces in a small bowl. Stick the candy cane sticks into the marshmallows. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate and shortening in increments of 15 seconds, stirring thoroughly each time. When completely melted and smooth, starting dipping the marshmallow sticks. Dip each marshmallow halfway into the chocolate, then sprinkle with the candy pieces. Place on wax paper to cool and harden.

Hot Chocolate: Set stove top to medium temperature. Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan (6-8 quart). Stir continuously until all chocolate is melted and it slowly comes to a boil. Once it starts to boil, immediately remove from heat. Serve with marshmallow dippers

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.