Winter is a time of year that brings shorter days, plummeting temperatures, seemingly endless colds and viruses, and a bleakness that can generally be matched by our mood. The overwhelming temptation can be to stay indoors, button down the hatches and stock up on comfort food. But instead of succumbing to the blues and resigning yourself to the inevitability of a seasonal bug, incorporate the following foods and supplements into your diet to stay happy, well and active this winter.
To boost the immune system…
Garlic – nature’s medicine cabinet packed into some highly fragrant, and rather delicious bulbs! Garlic possesses potent antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it the ultimate immune boosting superfood. The active ingredient in garlic (allicin) is released when the garlic is crushed, so to benefit from its superpowers it is advised that you crush the garlic and then leave it to stand for 10 minutes before cooking. Get garlic into your cooking wherever possible, and at the early signs of a cold or flu, you may consider a high potency garlic supplement(disclaimer- they leave no trace of garlic on your breath!). For the suffering but brave, these Flu Fighting Super Shots can provide an instant immune boost:
You will need (per shot):
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 cloves raw garlic
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp raw honey (ideally Manuka)
Dash of warm water
1) Crush and chop the garlic and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
2) Combine with the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, water and honey. Stir all together well.
3) Knock back!
Have 2 per day, around 4-5 hours apart.
Probiotics – you may well be wondering what the “friendly bacteria” in your digestive system has to do with fighting colds and flu? Well in actual fact, everything, as between 70- 80% of our immune system is based within the gut. By boosting levels of these friendly bacteria with a high potency, multi-strain probiotic supplement, you are strengthening your defences against bugs, viruses and other nasties that enter the body. A probiotic is highly recommended during the winter months, especially for those who feel their immune system may be compromised through frequent illness. You can also support your gut bacteria through food by eating fermented “live” foods such sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and probiotic natural yoghurt.
To boost the mood….
Vitamin D – for 6 months of the year (October to April), 90% of the UK lies too far north to have enough sunshine necessary to make vitamin D in the skin, and as a result a large proportion of the UK population are thought to be vitamin D deficient. Researchers are now discovering that vitamin D plays an important role in mental health, with studies showing an association between low vitamin D levels and various mood disorders including depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So how can you boost your levels? Well of course the ideal scenario is jetting off for some winter sun! In the absence of this, there are a small number of foods that contain vitamin D including oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and eggs. A vitamin D supplement (in the D3 form) should also be considered for adults over 65, with between 1500IU and 3000IU a day being the optimal daily dose.
Oily fish- such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to healthy brain activity, and are recommended to those suffering with SAD. Studies have demonstrated that individuals who regularly consume oily fish exhibit fewer depressive symptoms than those who don’t. In further support of this, there is evidence that shows incidence of SAD to be less common amongst populations who consume more oily fish.
To boost the circulation….
Ginger- studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It may also improve circulation and is a diaphoretic, meaning that it can warm you from the inside and promote perspiration that can help to reduce fever, cool the body, and speed the elimination of toxins from the system. To make fresh ginger tea peel a thumb-sized piece of ginger, slice, and steep in hot water with a slice of lemon for 5 minutes.
Antioxidant rich foods- such as berries, green leafy vegetables, brightly coloured vegetables, green tea, cacao and red wine (in moderation!) play an important role in strengthening the blood cells and blood vessels. A diet rich in antioxidants is therefore vital for boosting circulation and supporting heart health. Circulation of blood is also important for maintaining a healthy body temperature and staying snug!