BEATING THE WINTER BLUES
With summer quickly departing and winter on its way, now is the time to start thinking about giving your body a well earned rest and reset ready to take on the winter months.
Like many, I happily overindulged over the warm summer months with more than usual ciders and champers, overflowing cheese boards and flavoursome fish and chips on the beach! Did I regret it? Not even once! While I am a keen advocate of healthy eating and feeding and fuelling your body with optimal nutrition, I am also all for balance and moderation. I happily shared many a time over the summer with friends eating and drinking things that I knew weren’t the best for my body, but made special memories at the same time. This to me is just as, if not more important, than worrying about how many cups of veges I ate during the day, or how many burpees I needed to do to burn off that second wheel of camembert!
As we transition into cooler months, with less sunshine and more rain, it’s a time to give the body a rest and some nurturing to see us through the winter, healthy and happy.
THE WINTER RESET
As the ciders are substituted for red wine and champers for hot chocolates, so does the foods we eat. BBQ’s and salads often turn into roast meats and veges and slow cooked curries and stews. Its easy to eat fewer fresh raw veges during the cooler months, as we reach for more warming dishes.
Winter is notorious for illness and you’d be lucky to escape the colder months lurgy free.
Below are a few tips and tricks to help boost your immunity, reducing the incidence of colds and flus that spread like wild fire.
- Continue to drink water. While this is no easy feat when it’s cold and dreary outside, drinking plenty of water during the cooler months is just as important as when we are in the peak of summer. Water keeps you hydrated, assists in detoxification, and lubricates the joints. If cold water isn’t going to cut it, pour yourself a glass of warm water and squeeze in some lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. This will also help to kick start your digestion and wake up your liver. So drink up so you can get up outta bed.
- Drink herbal teas and broths. While it’s easy to whip on the coffee machine and brew up a heart starter a few times a day, nurturing your already shattered adrenals is super important over the winter months. Treat these few cold months of the year as a rest for your nervous system by laying off the coffees and drinking some calming and detoxifying herbal teas. Licorice root tea is your adrenals best friend, tonifying and relaxing them after a long hard summer. Dandelion is great for the liver and helps with detoxification. Broths are also beneficial and easy to drink during the winter months. They are nutrient dense, loaded with healing compounds such as gelatin, collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine. The benefits include improving the health of joints, boosting the immune system, helping to treat leaky gut and reducing inflammation.
- Continue on the wholefood journey. Just because the weather has cooled down, doesn’t mean you have to let go of all the hard work you have done staying fit and healthy over the summer. Remember, fresh wholefoods contain a variety of the essential vitamins and minerals your body requires to perform at its best. Enjoy warm salads with roasted root vegetables and cooked meat, lightly steam veges, get your slow cooker out and create aromatic curries and stews that contain plenty of hearty veges. There are endless recipes available that are simple and easy to prepare, that are loaded with vegetables.
- Supplementation- while I prefer wholefoods over supplementation, the winter months call for the use of supplementation more so than ever. Unfortunately, our soils no longer provide the nutrient levels of decades ago due to poor farming practices, and industrialisation. As such, there is a high proportion of our population who have significant mineral deficiencies. Zinc and Magnesium being the 2 biggest problems. Studies has shown that zinc is required to boost immunity so therefore, those with deficiencies will often suffer when winter strikes. Foods rich in zinc include meat, liver, seafood (especially oysters and shellfish) nuts and seeds, and wholegrains. Magnesium is required for over 300 essential enzymatic reactions in the body, from nerve conduction, and muscle relaxation to energy production. Foods rich in magnesium are leafy greens, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, meats and cocoa. (Yes you can eat your chocolate with your red wine!) As always, consult with your health care professional regarding the use of supplementation.
- Vitamin C- the antioxidant powerhouse. Vitamin C has been used for years worldwide to “prevent” colds and flus. Studies have shown that by supplementing with vitamin C, you reduce the chance of contracting colds and reducing their duration. Foods high in vitamin C include blackcurrants, berries, citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, capsicum and peppers. Again check with a qualified practitioner before taking any supplements to ensure they are right for you.
- Get your fermenting on! Fermented foods have been in the spotlight for some time now and it’s no wonder! Numerous studies have proven that the bacteria present in fermented foods are beneficial to our gut microbiome and therefore our overall health. Enjoying a variety of fermented foods means that you increase the diversity of the strains of bacteria that populate your gut. As such, the bacteria are responsible for the generation of serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter, and a variety of b vitamins. Since the gut is responsible for 70-80 % of immunity, there’s never been a better time to add fermented foods to your daily diet. Preparing your own fermented foods and beverages is super easy, and something everyone of any age can do. You just need a few basic kitchen utensils and tools and you are on your way. Search online for sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yoghurt recipes and get creative in the kitchen.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Yes, that means getting out of bed early before work if you have too! While it is easy to stay in bed snuggled up and listen to the rain on the tin roof, exercise is still very important in the winter months. When the weather makes you feel a little dreary, exercise is shown to increase energy and improve your mood by pumping your body full of endorphins. It’s also great for circulation, meaning your hands and feet will stay warm and toasty. Also, what better excuse then to catch up with friends when there’s nothing else to do in the rain!
- Wash your hands! Seems like a no brainer, however, washing your hands during the winter months is vital to keeping you fit and healthy. With the prevalence of colds and flus high during the cooler months, the spread of illness is encouraged with poor hygiene. Wash your hands after sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose- Simple!
As you can see, the above recommendations are all easy and quick to implement, and don’t cost the earth. It’s about being mindful and prepared, ready to tackle winter head on!