It can be tempting to retreat indoors and hibernate as the cold weather hits, passing on outdoor activities and cosying up on the couch with comfort foods. By prioritising our health and nutrition and maintaining some healthy habits over the colder months, we can have a certain amount of control over whether we pick up a cold or flu and if we do, how severe it is.
Our immune system is complex and keeping it strong isn’t as simple as eating one type of food or nutrient. It requires a balance of many factors, such as a healthy foundation diet with the focus on meeting requirements of certain nutrients to make sure the immune system can do its job properly.
It’s also so important to manage other lifestyle factors too, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, watching out stress levels and not drinking too much alcohol means our body is best equipped to deal with any nasty bugs that we come into contact with.
These are my top tips on what to eat to stay healthy over winter:
Eat these foods daily have specific immune boosting benefits
Vitamin D – we mostly get this from the sun but food sources include eggs, mushrooms, dairy and oily fish like salmon
Vitamin C – citrus like oranges are known to be a good source of vitamin C abut many other fruit and vegetables are too, such as sweet potato, broccoli, kiwi fruit and berries
Zinc & protein – is found in animal foods (seafood, meat, dairy), nuts and seeds and legumes and lentils
Selenium – brazil nuts are a rich source, as well as seafood, meat, wholegrain wheat products, legumes and lentils
Iron - found in high amounts in red meat, salmon, fortified cereals, and to a smaller degree in wholemeal pasta, legumes and lentils, almonds, cashews and green leafy vegetables.
Keep up your veggie intake
Even though salads might not be so appealing, switch that vegetable intake to include it in warm dishes such as trays of roast vegetables, in a soup, steamed, stir fried, in a curry or snuck into sauces and stews
Frozen fruit and veg and canned in water, brine or natural juices are a great option too to avoid wasting any fresh foods. They’re also just as, if not more nutritious than fresh as they’re snap frozen or canned which retains their nutrients.
Eat a variety
Our immune system is strongly linked with our gut, so a healthy gut often means a healthy immune system
For great gut health, aim to eat at least 30 different plant foods per week and have a good source of probiotic every day, such as a probiotic yoghurt or kefir.
Keep up your fluids
Most people will drop their fluid intake over winter because drinking cold tap water isn’t so appealing. Try keeping up your fluids with warm drinks like herbal teas, warm water with lemon, soups and broths
Black tea and freshly ground coffee are also packed with antioxidants (but don’t overdo your threshold for caffeine).