How to Stay Well During Winter
With the warmth of this year’s summer behind us and our best source of vitamin D becoming scarcer, our immune systems become more exposed and vulnerable to attack. This is the time to give our bodies a little extra support through our choice of foods and in some cases supplements too.
Nutrient-Rich Foods to Support Immunity & Wellbeing
A healthy, balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals can help support immunity and well-being. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a ‘rainbow’ diet full of colourful fruits and vegetables. The most recent guidance suggests a minimum of seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Including foods that are rich in the following nutrients will help you to stay healthy and happy and will help to reduce your chances of catching a winter cold.
Vitamin C is water-soluble so is not stored in the body. This means we must have a regular intake to stay healthy. It boosts immunity and if you are unlucky enough to catch a cold it has been shown to reduce the duration and severity. Foods containing Vitamin C are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. They strengthen collagen and connective tissue helping to prevent pathogens from spreading between organs and body tissues. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant so helps to eliminate free radicals (toxins) from the body.
Foods rich in Vitamin C include kiwi fruit, parsley, kale, lemons, oranges, blackcurrants, watercress and peppers. Vitamin C should be topped up daily.
Zinc is required by the thymus gland to manufacture white blood cells (T-cells) which fight pathogens.
Zinc-rich foods include peas, sardines, tofu, oats, cashew nuts, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin A is antiviral and is important for the health of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, mouth and lungs. These membranes are often the body’s first contact with invading pathogens so it’s important to keep them healthy. Foods high in Beta-carotene are converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Good sources of vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, eggs, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, squashes and red and yellow peppers.
Vitamin D is essential for immunity and unfortunately during the winter months, we don’t get enough as it is synthesised from sunlight. We explore what vitamin D is good for in this blog.
It’s difficult to get enough from dietary sources so I would recommend taking a vitamin D supplement if you suffer from frequent colds.
Supporting Your Digestive Health
It’s also worth knowing that a healthy immune system relies on a healthy digestive system. This is because the gut contains a large portion of our immune cells.
Fibre helps to keep the digestive tract healthy so it is sensible to include whole grains such as brown basmati rice, oats, quinoa and buckwheat to your diet. Also include foods such as nuts, pulses and legumes to your nutrient rich fruit and vegetables.
Maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract is necessary to allow proper digestion of food and this also helps to support a healthy immune system. A good quality probiotic can help to fight off colds and other nasty bugs and is a sensible choice for those who are taking or have taken prescribed anti-biotics.
Last but not least, garlic is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, so has a very positive effect on health.
Consider how exercise, sleep and stress reduction can have a positive impact on your health during the winter months too.
- We’ve written a blog about exercising at home during lockdown.
- This blog explores how to sleep and why we need it.
- Stress reduction
Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night and try to do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. Take a look at our YouTube channel for yoga flows and try meditation or other breathing exercises to aid relaxation.