Colder days, longer nights and enticing festive indulgences all take their toll on our immune health and energy levels. So what can we do to make sure we come out the other side, well defended and with a spring in our step?
Eating a varied and balanced diet is the key to physical and mental wellbeing at any time of the year but more so during the winter months.
Eating well gives your body the best chance of fighting off colds and flu, keeping you healthy all winter long. A healthy immune system can even minimise the severity and duration of these seasonal viruses.
Help your body to resist infection by eating a diverse, fibre-rich diet of nutrient-dense whole foods, fruit and vegetables. This will not only ensure a daily intake of immune boosting nutrients but it will also nourish and support a healthy gut flora which is vital for the health of our immune system. It’s a win, win situation!!
Fruit and vegetables
Eat plenty of different coloured fruit and vegetables, fresh or frozen. They will provide you with a variety of antioxidants that protect your cells from infection and plenty of fibre for your gut bacteria to feast on too. Generally when it comes to vegetables, the darker they are the more nutrition is packed into the plant. This is especially true when it comes to green leafy vegetables such as kale, spring greens and cabbage.
Eat a variety of beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds to supply you with a range of essential vitamins and minerals plus healthy fats, plant proteins and energising carbohydrates for overall health and vitality.
Choosing high-quality animal protein, (fish, meat, eggs and dairy products) rather than factory-farmed produce is not only more nutritious for you but is of course much kinder to animals and the planet.
Specific immune boosting nutrients
Vitamin A is obtained from eating orange and yellow coloured fruit and vegetables, especially carrots, sweet potato, apricots and winter squash. Also found in dark leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, broccoli, eggs, butter and liver (organic to reduce the risk of toxicity).
Vitamin C rich sources include berries, citrus fruit, bell peppers, potatoes, winter squash and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin D levels can be topped up by eating oily fish, good quality eggs, grass fed meat and butter. However, the best way to get vitamin D in the UK is from the sun during the spring and summer.
Vitamin E is found in wheat germ and nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts.
Iron sources include beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables as well as meat, eggs and fish.
Zinc high foods include meat, seafood, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and whole grains.
Selenium rich sources include bread, fish, meat, eggs, seaweed and Brazil nuts.
Additional self-care measures
Cooking with onions, leeks, garlic, ginger, black peppercorn, cayenne pepper, chilli, turmeric, thyme and oregano can help your body resist infection. Other immune-boosting herbs to consider are Elderberry and Echinacea.
Eat organic food to maximise your nutrient intake and minimise your intake of immune suppressing toxins.
Minimise processed food as a diet high in artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, and unhealthy trans-fats weakens our natural defence system.
Select more nutritious, natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, local honey and stevia, or better still use fresh or dried fruit to sweeten foods.
Staying active may be difficult at this time of year but it helps to keep your lymphatic system moving which boosts immune function.
Exercise improves sleep quality, reduces stress, supports circulation and helps to keep us regular for the safe elimination of toxins. A brisk 20 minute daily walk can be enough to improve your general wellbeing.
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Drinking plenty of fluids helps transport nutrients around the body and supports the elimination of waste and toxins.
Following these recommendations will help to keep your body strong, reducing the risk of infection.
However, if you do get a cold or flu virus, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water and eat restorative foods such as stews, soups and broths to ease your symptoms. Avoid sugar as it feeds bacteria and viruses and promotes mucous production. Sip warm water with fresh lemon, ginger and locally sourced honey to support your return to health.
Wishing you a well-nourished and healthy season, all winter long,
Kaz Roberts is the naturopathic nutritional therapist at The Fold and she is passionate about inspiring natural, healthy living. She believes that when we pay attention to our diet and lifestyle we are helping ourselves lead healthier lives. A consultation with Kaz will assess your current health goals and provide you with a personalised nutrition plan to guide and support you.
Contact Kaz on 07811974006 or visit malvernnutrition.co.uk for more information.