Nutritional advice for a healthy winter
With shorter days and longer nights; as the wind bites and the duvet is sorely missed while you battle for a seat on public transport; it is time to think about arming yourself for the colder season. Winter may well be a time that we find ourselves stressed, over-extended and our health (and staying healthy) may be secondary.
Four top tips to help you stay healthy during the colder season
1. Increase your nutrient supply
By eating more whole foods and less refined/processed foods, you will top up your supply and store of vital nutrients that may otherwise whole be diminished by poor dietary habits, alcohol, caffeine, and poor health.
- Reduce your consumption of processed foods. Pesticides in foods may be considered as 'anti-nutrients' - they reduce the number of valuable nutrients in the body.
- Consume organic foods (if possible). These are free of pesticides and additives that may be detrimental to health.
- Consume more fruit and vegetables. Try to eat at least five portions a day; a portion is a complete small fruit or vegetable, e.g. one apple = one portion; one large papaya = two portions.
- Reduce your refined carbohydrates/refined sugar intake.
- Avoid refined carbohydrate goods (predominantly white flour products and sugary foods such as cakes and biscuits). These foods are high in sugar which reduces overall immunity; cells of the immune system are slowed down and rendered ineffective.
- Go for brown bread and wholemeal products such as fresh granary (with seeds) and whole wheat pasta.
2. Help your immune system
To help guard against the raft of colds and flu that thrive in the winter months, you need to ensure that your immune system is in good order. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor dietary choices all serve to reduce the strength of the immune system.
- Reduce your consumption of refined fats.
- Avoid margarine and refined oils (such as sunflower, vegetable, corn, etc) and avoid deep-fried foods; these contain free radicals which inhibit the immune system. Instead, go for unsalted butter in moderate amounts, or margarine that specifically does not contain hydrogenated fats. Go for unrefined (preferably unfiltered) extra virgin oil.
- Reduce the consumption of red meat/poultry without fat removed. These contain higher amounts of saturated fats, which are inflammatory and high in pesticide and hormone residues which burden the immune system (unless specifically from organic sources). Go for lean meats instead.
- Reduce your consumption of excess dairy. Dairy can be inflammatory and maybe mucous-forming, which exacerbates colds and flu, asthma, sinusitis, etc. Consume dairy products in moderation and choose organic to avoid consuming hormone and pesticide residue.
- Increase the consumption of protein. Have with most, if not all, meals. Good quality protein is not necessarily from animal sources. Lentils and beans are excellent sources with high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Oily fish provides a high-quality source of protein with the bonus of being high in health-promoting omega 3 essential fatty acids.
3. Avoid stress
Stress is a natural reaction in the body to both physical and mental challenges. However, due to our hectic and busy lifestyles, this reaction is often impaired and serves to disrupt the balance of the body in the long term, giving rise to conditions such as anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, and others. Stress can lead to dysbiosis, whereby the natural flora of the gut is skewed toward so-called bad bacteria, which has many knock-on effects such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol. Avoid over-consumption; try to keep below your weekly limit of 14 units for women and 21 units for men. Sensible drinking means pacing yourself as much as possible, for example drinking a glass of water between rounds.
- Reduce consumption of caffeine. Reduce caffeine intake - overconsumption of the stimulant caffeine from coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks produces a response in the body similar to the stress reaction. Limit intake to less than two cups of coffee daily or less than three cups of tea. Soft caffeinated drinks should be consumed occasionally.
4. Promote detoxification
By ensuring that we get pollutants, toxins and other nasties out of our bodies, the body has less to deal with and long term health is bettered. Drinking enough water, exercising regularly, and promoting regular bowel movements helps to promote detoxification.
- Increase water intake. Increase your intake to about one and a half to two litres of filtered or bottled water daily. Drink small quantities with meals and more between meals.
- Increase Exercise. Regular gentle aerobic exercise promotes the natural detoxification processes of the body, helping to drive toxins out of the body. Not only does regular exercise improve fitness, but it also promotes regular bowel movements.
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