When winter hits us, our immune system can get a hammering! But what can you do to help keep yourself fit and well over the chilly season? Here are four top tips…
1. Boost your vitamin C before you get sick!
Most people hit the lemon drinks and vitamin C supplements when they get sick, but it’s too late by then! You need to have a diet rich in vitamin C all the time to keep your immune system healthy and strong. If you have enough vitamin C consistently, what it means is that when you do get a cold, it can help reduce the severity and length of it. So hit the kiwifruit, oranges and start adding a handful of berries into your porridge or overnight oats. Veges have a good amount of vitamin C, too.
2. Boost your iron and zinc
Both of these minerals are essential for a healthy immune system, so now winter is here, it’s time to get your casserole pan or crockpot out. Try a recipe packed with veges and some red meat, which is rich in both iron and zinc – here's a recipe idea.
Also, winter isn’t a time to forget about seafood. Mussels are a great (and cheap) way to get a good dose of zinc, so pick some up next time you shop.
3. Keep your gut healthy
Your gut (aka your digestive system or to be slightly more graphic, the tube that runs from your mouth, to your stomach, to your intestines then out the other end….) plays a really important part in keeping you well.
There are kilos of bacteria that live in your intestines, which need to be looked after so they can look after you! To keep the balance of these bacteria in your favour, include plenty of fibre-rich foods (so that’s your fruits, veges, whole grains like oats and brown rice, and pulses). More on fibre here. Also look at including more fermented foods in your diet, which includes things like sauerkraut, kefir, kombuca and kimchi. You may find a good probiotic supplement helpful as well.
4. Get outside!
The winter months can make it easy to hibernate, but there are two important reasons to get outside.
- You need to expose your skin to sunlight to make vitamin D, a vitamin important for many things including keeping your immune system strong.
- Exposing your eyes to light is vital to help regulate the hormones which control your mood and sleep. If you are feeling a bit flat and blue, this could definitely be one of the things you need to consider! If you are reading the paper or having a quick cuppa at home, try sitting on the door step instead of inside – even if it’s for just 10 minutes, it is better than nothing (although longer would be better). If you work indoors, it would be good to get outside at lunchtime and walk as often as you can; and if you can brave the chill, expose your arms, too!
Love, Claire x
Claire Turnbull, BSc (Hons) Dietetics UK, NZ-registered nutritionist
Managing director of Mission Nutrition
Healthy Food Guide nutritionist
- Grab a copy of Claire’s amazing 10-step guide to feeling fabulous every day – it’s FREE!
- For more ideas and inspiration, check out www.claireturnbull.co.nz and find Claire on Facebook.
- For one-on-one nutrition advice, visit Claire’s team of dietitians / nutritionists at Mission Nutrition.