As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, it’s easy to become complacent about our health. We exercise less, we eat more comfort foods and we trap ourselves indoors, in artificially heated rooms, full of other people’s germs. No wonder people think that winter colds and flu are inevitable.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little self-care, you can get through the winter feeling healthy, fit and full of life. In part one of this series, we’ll take a look at how you can eat yourself well this winter, with the right balance of vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Now that the summer salad season is over, it’s easy to get drawn into eating starchy comfort foods to make you feel better about the rotten weather. Yet your immune system needs healthy, nutritious foods more than ever in the winter months. Vegetable soups and stews are a great way to still get your five a day, and just one orange gives you a whole day’s worth of vitamin C.
Chances are you’ll want something warm inside you before you head out on a cold morning, but that doesn’t have to be a fry-up or a bacon butty. A bowl of porridge will not only give you a warm and tasty start to the day, it’s also full of fibre that will keep you feeling full and avoid the mid-morning munchies. Just remember to use fresh and dried fruit to sweeten your bowl, rather than piles of refined sugar.
Essential winter vitamins
To make sure your body has everything it needs to stay healthy this winter, you need to make sure you are getting enough of the essential vitamins. Here’s what they do and where you’ll find them:
- Vitamin A – helps to support your immune system to fight infections. It is found in cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk and yoghurt
- Vitamin C – contrary to popular belief, vitamin C will not prevent colds and flu, but it can shorten the length of your cold and reduce the severity of symptoms. Your body cannot store vitamin C so you need to make sure you eat enough every day in citrus fruit, red and green peppers, berries, broccoli, spuds and even your Christmas dinner sprouts!
- Vitamin D – not only supports your immune system, but also keeps your bones strong and healthy to protect you when you slip on the ice. In the summer months, most people get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight, but in winter you need to top up through things like liver, red meats, oily fish and egg yolks.
- Vitamin E – boosts your circulation, keeping your hands and feet warm, and keeps your skin moist in windy weather and dry, artificial heated rooms. You’ll find it in nuts, seeds and cereal products.
Essential winter minerals
As well as vitamins, your body also needs minerals to stay healthy and beat the winter blues. These include:
- Zinc – boosts circulation and supports your immunity. It can be found in a wide variety of foods, from bread to dairy products.
- Magnesium – stops you feeling down and sluggish when the dark days arrive. It can be found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
- Iron – lack of iron will also leave you with a lack of energy in the winter months, so make sure you get enough. Good sources of iron include red meat, seafood and green vegetables.
A number of herbs have been identified and scientifically proven to boost winter health. These include:
- Echinacea – a 2007 review of 14 studies reported that echinacea cuts your cold risk by 58% and shortens a cold by a day and a half.
- Ginkgo – more than 400 scientific studies have shown that ginkgo boosts circulation which will help you to keep warm in winter.
- Horseradish – is said to relieve congestion and ease a cough.
- Garlic – is an all round winter winner, boosting circulation, supporting a healthy heart and strengthening your immune system.
- Elderberry – clinical studies have found that elderberry extract reduces the severity and duration of flu symptoms
Talk to your therapist
Remember, your local ARCH registered therapist is always on hand to give you a boost in the winter months, especially when you have overdone it with the festive food and drink. Many ARCH registered therapists will also be able to recommend pro-biotics to give your immune system a real boost in the fight against colds and flu.
You don’t have to wait for a new you in the New Year; you can get a fresh start right now, so book your winter boost today.