Winter is commonly a time when we overindulge. The short days and long nights may bring comfort and cosiness, but if you’re not careful, they also harbour the threat of piling on a few extra pounds.
Winter is also the time when you’ll have colleagues, friends and family sniffling and sneezing around you. And with the reality of Coronavirus, it’s now even more important to stay strong and healthy as winter approaches.
We spoke to Dr Michelle Braude, nutritionist and founder of The Food Effect, to find out how you can boost your immunity and keep your weight and health on track over the winter, and beyond.
Drink, drink drink
Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just thirsty, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day – about two litres in total – as well as 1-2 glasses before every meal or snack.
Water helps your kidneys flush out excess toxins and chemicals, which may be slowing down your metabolism. Better kidney function also means you’re better equipped to help clear a virus from your system sooner.
If you have difficulty drinking enough plain water, herbal teas, green tea and lemon in hot water are all just as good! Lemons are also a great source of immunity-boosting vitamin C, so this is a real win-win.
Eat flu-fighting foods
Prevention is always better than cure, so it’s important to make sure your immune system is working at full capacity when winter sets in. Packing your diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to stimulate optimum immune function. Dark green, leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, eggs, and whole-grains all contain valuable nutrients that help to enhance your immune function.
You can – and should – also include natural antibacterials in your diet, which include garlic, Manuka honey and ginger.
Stock up on vitamins
Whilst diet should always come first, savvy supplementation can help prepare your body to fight off any infections. It’s worth taking a good multivitamin providing around 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of as many vitamins and minerals as possible. There are also a few key vitamins you can take individually: zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C have all been found to play a significant role in immunity and disease prevention.
A good probiotic is also worthwhile, as 70% of our immune system is located in our gut.
Dodge the comfort food trap
When winter comes around, it’s tempting to curl up on the couch and binge on stodgy carbs and sweet treats. But far from making you feel good, so-called ‘comfort food’ can leave you tired, lethargic and moody. Instead, get your sweet fix from fruit and healthy blended smoothies, which raise your serotonin levels naturally.
Choose the right carbs
Avoid refined ‘fast-release’ carbs such as white bread and sugary cereals as these cause a spike then a sharp fall in blood glucose levels, creating cravings for more sugary foods.
Instead go for slow-release carbs with a low glycaemic-index, such as whole-grains, sweet potatoes, beans, pulses and brown rice.
Whole-grain rolled oats are also a great choice. A hearty bowl of porridge, topped with some fresh berries for your dose of vitamin C and antioxidants, is a healthy, yet comforting start to the day.
Don’t be D-ficient
Low levels of the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, have been associated with increased fat storage, amongst many other health problems (including poor immunity!) – and the sad reality for us, living in the UK, is that we are all definitely lacking in some good old sunshine!
So I recommend that everyone should take a Vitamin D supplement (or a multivitamin containing Vitamin D) all year round.
Get hot to cure colds
Spicing up your meals can help fight illnesses such as cold and flu, according to research at the University of Cardiff. The spices in a curry could have an antiviral effect, as well as easing symptoms of a common cold. So tuck into healthy, homemade curries with lashings of turmeric, black pepper, cumin, chilli and ginger to help you stay sniffle-free.
Soups are always a winner during winter as they’re wonderfully warm and comforting. This vegan soup recipe is jam-packed with goodness, plus the pumpkin seed topping adds a great source of plant-based protein.
It’s always tempting to reach for sugar-laden treats during winter, but the good news is that you can enjoy a treat that’s still healthy. This gluten-free carrot cake recipe uses ground almonds instead of flour, and is sugar-free, making it an indulgent yet healthy option to enjoy with a cup of tea.