“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree; thy leaves are so unchanging…”
Or at least they are if you opt for a fake tree. A real tree tends to sit in the corner of the room, slowly turning brown and shedding pine needles all over the floor while the family argues about who has to drag it outside. The tradition of the Christmas tree is long and rich, and has resulted in some modern trees that run the gamut from breathtakingly beautiful, encapsulating everything that Christmas stands for, to just plain weird. Let’s take a tour around the world to take in the Christmas trees that are truly tree-mendous (sorry for the pun).
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 279-feet-high floating Christmas tree at Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was surrounded by fireworks during its inauguration on November 29, 2014. But even without the fireworks, it’s an eyecatcher.
2. Rockefeller Plaza, New York, USA
30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan is the home of US broadcaster NBC, and hosts one of the most recognized Christmas trees in the world. A tree has been placed there each year since 1933, and is usually a Norway Spruce. The 45,000 individual lights are switched on each year at an official ceremony, usually accompanied by a live concert (because nothing says Merry Christmas like Mariah Carey trying to sell a few more copies of her Christmas CD). Your own Christmas decorations are probably far less elaborate, but no less beautiful.Advertising
3. Trafalgar Square, London, UK
Christmas can be a time for gratitude, and this has led to the Christmas tree in London’s Trafalgar Square. The tree has been an annual gift from the people of Norway since 1947, in thanks for England’s help during WW2. Most trees selected for London are more than 60 years old, meaning that until recent years, the trees were actually growing during the war.
4. Galeries Lafayette, Paris, France
It would seem that the French prefer their Christmas trees to be more traditional, like the four-storey monster placed inside the posh Galeries Lafayette Department Store each year which you can see above. However in 2014, American artist Paul McCarthy was responsible for the massive inflatable “Christmas tree” installation in central Paris, which was criticized for its strong resemblance to a sex toy, and was later destroyed by vandals.
5. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany
There’s a beautiful juxtaposition with the placement of the annual Christmas tree at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The Christmas tree is a universal symbol of goodwill towards all men (and of course, all women), while the Brandenburg Gate was once the setting for Nazi ceremonies.
6. Lego Christmas Tree, London, UK
Perhaps the ultimate in plastic Christmas trees, this gigantic Lego construction was put up at London’s St Pancras International Station, where the Eurostar leaves for Paris. You might complain about having to take down your Christmas tree and pack away the decorations, but pity the poor people who had to dismantle this thing.Advertising
7. Floating Christmas Tree, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While Brazil might not have a white Christmas, it doesn’t stop them from having perhaps the most amazing Christmas tree of all. Constructed on a barge anchored in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, the tree boasts more than 3.3 million lights.
8. St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
Christmas is a holy time for many people, and so it’s fitting that the Pope can look out his window and see this 82 foot beauty, which is a gift from the German state of Bavaria.
9. Monte Ingino, Gubbio, Italy
Why have one tree when several hundred are more impressive? On the slopes of Monte Ingino, just outside of Gubbio in central Italy, individual pine trees are fitted with lights in order to create one massive tree that stretched more than 2000 feet to the top of the mountain. It’s actually switched on remotely by the Pope, using a tablet computer. Ah, technology.
10. National Christmas Tree, Washington DC, USA
The President of the United States has many stressful duties to perform, so the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree is probably a welcomed relief. Each President from Franklin D. Roosevelt onwards has officiated at the lighting ceremony.Advertising
11. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA
Maybe the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree is one that lives all year round and is merely decorated during the festive season. This tree is more than 160 feet in height, meaning it dominates the landscape no matter what the season might be.
12. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Christmas in Australia takes place during the heat of summer, and Melbourne has been known to reach more than 40°C (106°F) during the festive season. This doesn’t stop Federation Square in downtown Melbourne from hosting a beautiful Christmas tree each year, with confused children melting in the heat as they look at representations of a white Christmas.
13. Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain
The city of Madrid has opted for an environmentally friendly tree, since the tree in question is actually a glorious sculpture of metal and glass.
14. Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand
Unless climate change really kicks into gear, Bangkok is unlikely to experience a white Christmas anytime soon. That doesn’t stop the people of Bangkok from enjoying an annual gigantic Christmas tree, which is located at the entrance to the Central World Shopping Mall.Advertising
15. Comercio Square, Lisbon, Portugal
Europe’s tallest Christmas tree can be found in the Portuguese capital, and while the height varies slightly each year depending on the approved construction (since the tree is made from steel), it’s generally around 250 feet tall.
16. Murano Christmas Tree, Venice, Italy
Murano glassware has been prized for centuries, and the Venetian island has been the home of fine glass since 1291. So of course, why not make an entire Christmas tree of the stuff? The end result is striking, but perhaps a little too alien to be truly festive.
17. Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE
If you happen to lose a Christmas ornament, it’s no big deal. If any ornament is lost from the Emirate Palace Hotel’s tree, whoever is responsible might be facing jail time. It’s decorated with more than $11 million in jewelry and precious stones.
18. Dortmund Christmas Market, Dortmund, Germany
We’ve saved the biggest and the best for last. This tree uses an idea similar to the previously mentioned Lego tree, and is made of multiple smaller parts. This huge “tree” is in fact made of 1700 smaller pine trees, stretching some 150 feet into the winter sky.
Last Updated on July 28, 2020
14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet
Diet trends may come and go, but a low-GI diet remains one of the few that has been shown to include benefits based on science. Low GI foods provide substantial health benefits over those with a high index, and they are key to maintaining a healthy weight.
What is GI? Glycemic index (GI) is the rate at which the carbohydrate content of a food is broken down into glucose and absorbed from the gut into the blood. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream.
The higher the GI of a food, the faster it will be broken down and cause your blood glucose (sugar) to rise. Foods with a high GI rating are digested very quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. This is why it’s advisable to stick to low GI foods as much as possible, as the carbohydrate content of low GI foods will be digested slowly, allowing a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.
Foods with a GI scale rating of 70 or more are considered to be high GI. Foods with a rating of 55 or below are considered low GI foods.
It’s important to note that the glycemic index of a food doesn’t factor in the quantity that you eat. For example, although watermelon has a high glycemic index, the water and fiber content of a standard serving of water means it won’t have a significant impact on your blood sugar.
Like watermelon, some high GI foods (such as baked potatoes) are high in nutrients. And some low GI foods (such as corn chips) contain high amounts of trans fats.
In most cases, however, the GI is an important means of gauging the right foods for a healthy diet.
Eating mainly low GI foods every day helps to provide your body with a slow, continuous supply of energy. The carbohydrates in low GI foods is digested slowly, so you feel satisfied for longer. This means you’ll be less likely to suffer from fluctuating sugar levels that can lead to cravings and snacking.
Let’s continue with some of the best examples of low GI foods.
Quinoa has a slightly higher GI than rice or barley, but it contains a much higher proportion of protein. If you don’t get enough protein from the rest of your diet, quinoa could help. It’s technically a seed, so it’s also high in fiber–again, more than most grains. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it excellent for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
2. Brown Rice (Steamed)
Versatile and satisfying, brown rice is one of the best low GI foods and is a staple for many dishes around the world. It’s whole rice from which only the husk (the outermost layer) is removed, so it’s a great source of fiber. In fact, brown rice has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve digestive function, promote fullness, and may even help prevent the formation of blood clots. Just remember to always choose brown over white!
3. Corn on the Cob
Although it tastes sweet, corn on the cob is a good source of slow-burning energy (and one of the tastiest low GI foods). It’s also a good plant source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron, all of which are required for the healthy production of red blood cells in the body. It’s healthiest when eaten without butter and salt!
Bananas are a superfood in many ways. They’re rich in potassium and manganese and contain a good amount of vitamin C. Their low GI rating means they’re great for replenishing your fuel stores after a workout.
They are easy to add to smoothies, cereal, or kept on your desk for a quick snack. The less ripe they are, the lower the sugar content is! As one of the best low GI foods, it’s a great addition to any daily diet.
5. Bran Cereal
Bran is famous for being one of the highest cereal sources of fiber. It’s also rich in a huge range of nutrients: calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and a host of B vitamins. Although bran may not be to everyone’s tastes, it can easily be added to other cereals to boost the fiber content and lower the overall GI rating.
6. Natural Muesli
Muesli–when made with unsweetened rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, and other sugar-free ingredients–is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. It’s also very easy to make at home with a variety of other low GI foods. Add yogurt and fresh fruit for a nourishing, energy-packed breakfast.
Apple skin is a great source of pectin, an important prebiotic that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Apples are also high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants, and contain a good amount of vitamin C. They are best eaten raw with the skin on! Apples are one of a number of fruits that have a low glycemic index. Be careful which fruits you choose, as many have a large amount of natural sugars.
Apricots provide both fiber and potassium, which make them an ideal snack for both athletes and anyone trying to keep sugar cravings at bay. They’re also a source of antioxidants and a range of minerals.
Apricots can be added to salads, cereals, or eaten as part of a healthy mix with nuts at any time of the day.
9. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans and other legumes provide a substantial serving of plant-based protein, so they can be used in lots of vegetarian dishes if you’re looking to adopt a plant-based diet. They’re also packed with fiber and a variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They are great in soups, stews, or with (whole grain) tacos.
Barley is a cereal grain that can be eaten in lots of ways. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. It also contains beta-glucans, a type of fiber that can support gut health and has been shown to reduce appetite and food intake.
Please note that barley does contain gluten, which makes it unsuitable for anyone who is Celiac or who follows a gluten-free diet. In this case, gluten-free alternatives might include quinoa, buckwheat, or millet.
11. Raw Nuts
Most nuts have a low GI of between 0 and 20, with cashews slightly higher at around 22. Nuts, as one of the best low GI foods, are a crucial part of the Mediterranean diet and are really the perfect snack: they’re a source of plant-based protein, high in fiber, and contain healthy fats. Add them to smoothies and salads to boost the nutritional content. Try to avoid roasted and salted nuts, as these are made with large amounts of added salt and (usually) trans fats.
Raw carrots are not only a delicious low GI vegetable, but they really do help your vision! They contain vitamin A (beta carotene) and a host of antioxidants. They’re also low-calorie and high in fiber, and they contain good amounts of vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots are great for those monitoring their weight as they’ve been linked to lower cholesterol levels.
13. Greek Yogurt
Unsweetened Greek yogurt is not only low GI, but it’s an excellent source of calcium and probiotics, as well. Probiotics help to keep your gut microbiome in balance and support your overall digestive health and immune function. Greek yogurt makes a healthy breakfast, snack, dessert, or a replacement for dip. The most common probiotic strains found in yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus (found naturally in yogurt) and Lactobacillus acidophilus (which is often added by the manufacturer). You can also look into probiotic supplements for improving your gut health.
When made the traditional way from chickpeas and tahini, hummus is a fantastic, low-GI dish. It’s a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and can be eaten with almost any savory meal. Full of fiber to maintain satiety and feed your good gut bacteria, hummus is great paired with freshly-chopped vegetables, such as carrots and celery.
If you’re looking to eat healthier or simply cut down on snacking throughout the day, eating low GI foods is a great way to get started. Choose any of the above foods for a healthy addition to your daily diet and start feeling better for longer.
More Tips on Eating Healthy
- Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and Insulin Index Explained
- 15 Healthy Eating Tips from a Professional Health Coach
- How to Find a Healthy Eating Plan That Actually Works for You
Featured photo credit: Alexander Mils via unsplash.com
|||^||University of Sydney: Glycemic Index|
|||^||Healthline: 10 Low-Glycemic Fruits for Diabetes|
|||^||How Stuff Works: 6 Fruits Loaded With Sugar|
|||^||The Beet: 7 Ways You’ll Feel Better After Going Plant-Based, from Energy to Mood|
|||^||Eat This, Not That: 10 Signs You Should Get Tested for Celiac Disease|
|||^||Live Strong: Ready to Adopt a Mediterranean Diet? Start With This 7-Day Meal Plan|
|||^||Balance One: Streptococcus Thermophilus: Key Health Benefits|
|||^||Balance One: Lactobacillus Acidophilus: How It Can Improve Your Health|