It’s the time of year when you become aware of coughs, sore throats, colds – or worse. Whilst it may not be possible to evade every bug, eating well can give you some measure of protection, minimise the worse effects, and hasten recovery.
Your immune sustem is a complicated network that requires many elements to be working in harmony to serve you well. No single food or practice will deliver a panacea – it just isn’t as simple as that. However, like a fighting force, the system marches on its stomach. By choosing your foods wisely you can help to keep it robust, and yourself defended against fiendish Winter bugs and viruses. Here’s how:
1. Good hydration helps to flush the body regularly. I wrote about better beverage options last month, and now is the time to make some simple switches as a preventative measure.
2. Include fresh leafy greens and root vegetables daily. These are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins. Wth plenty to choose from, make sure you have as much variety as possible: kale, cabbage, brussels, sprouted greens, broccoli, beetroot, squashes, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes.
3. Increase your consumption of naturally fermented foods as condiments or as a tonic drink. These are full of helpful enzymes, minerals and vitamin C, and encourage beneficial bacteria to flourish thus keeping the bad ones in check. Foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, home-made pickles or probiotic drinks. It is easy and fun to make your own, so why not make it a special project this year? I can help if you want some guidance.
4. Harness the protective properties of herbs and spices. Many of these are both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. Luckily they are also familiar and easy to obtain. It is worth sourcing good quality for more potency, whole forms of the produce which isn’t stale or been over-refined. These will all serve you well: sage, nettle, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, chillies.
5. Eat vibrantly coloured fresh fruit, especially low sugar types such as apples, pears, and berries, citrus, pomegranate and kiwi. They will keep you topped up with a whole package of real vitamins and phytonutrients to fend off bugs.
6. If you fancy experiementing with more unusual items, try tahini (seseame seed paste) which is rich in minerals, as are seaweeds and micro-algaes (chlorella and spirulina). Some mushrooms are reknown for their medicinal substances, especially shitake, reishi and cordyceps.
If you do succumb, be mindful of how much sweet foods and dairy based items you consume; the former tends to feed illness, and the latter is mucous forming. You will recover much faster if you limit these elements of your diet for the duration.
Add more of these fabulous foods into your Winter diet, and witness how much more active and stronger you feel. Unlike over-the-counter medicines, they will improve your overall immune system which is a heaps more worthwhile than merely covering up symptoms, don’t you think?
Lastly, don’t forget that sleep, outdoor exercise, and relaxation are all important contributors to overall health so remind yourself to get a good, regular dose of each.
Do you live near Bolton? There is still time to bag yourself a place at an evening Health and Vitality workshop. A fistful of recipes – and some savvy tips – to keep you strong throughout Winter.