Fuel For Winter
For some of us winter is just that time of year we have to get through before we can enjoy spring and summer. The days are short and cold and everyone seems to have a sniffle. But luckily for us there are many nutritional foods to help beat the winter blues and help kick start our immune systems so we are well armed to fight off colds and flu.
One important thing to remember through winter is that some of our fruits and vegetables are seasonal and are not readily available all year round despite the varied climate of our different states. Fresh produce that has been chilled in deep storage for lengthy periods of time or has travelled from overseas may be lacking in vital nutrients. It is important to consider where produce has been grown as some countries have lower agricultural standards than Australia, and this may not only impact on the nutritional content of the food but prove a hazard to our health.
Below is a list of Australian grown fruits and vegetables in season during winter:
Bananas Bean shoots Lettuce
Grapefruit Broccoli Turnip
Kiwi Brussell sprouts Beetroot
Lemon Carrots Kale
Mandarins Cauliflower Swede
Oranges Fennel Rhubarb
Avocado Potatoes and sweet potato
Apples (pink lady, Lady Williams, and sundowner) Parsnips
Honeydew melon Cabbage
Nashi pears Leek
Eating fresh produce in season can help guarantee we are getting the most out of foods during a time our bodies need all the help they can get to fight off unwanted infections and illness.
Winter is also a great time to hit the great outdoors. With cooler temperatures and less risk of sunburn and heatstroke there is no better time to head outside and lap up what you can of the suns’ vitamin D while burning off some calories and boosting your metabolism. The Cancer Council recommends 2-3 hours of sun exposure to the hands, arms, and face (or an equivalent area of skin surface) during winter in the southern states spread over a week to obtain the minimum requirements for vitamin D. Vitamin D is not only essential for bone strength and disease prevention, but deficiencies may lead to a greater chance of catching respiratory infections.
Exercise is another important aspect of immunity. Exercise can help flush toxins, waste products and bacteria from the body via the excretory systems, it assists the flow of immune fighting white blood cells and antibodies throughout the body via increased circulation, can assist the body to regulate its T1 and T2 type immune helper cells, it helps reduce stress related hormones which can contribute to illness, and via an increase in body temperature can help control the growth of bacteria thus reducing the chances of illness. Exercise also strengthens the heart and lungs, and via the release of chemical substances in the brain (namely endorphins, adrenalin, serotonin, and dopamine) can improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.
FOODS FOR WINTER HEALTH
Homemade soups and broths – Warming soups packed with winter vegetables, chicken soups, and bone broths are an excellent choice for winter virus protection. The fluid in soups helps cleanse the system and fight off viruses and the fresh ingredients are packed with nutrients that are easy to digest and absorb. Chicken and vegetable soup can help fight inflammation and cold symptoms in the respiratory tract via its effects on the immune cells, and bone broths rich in calcium, magnesium and trace minerals are great immune system aids.
Citrus fruits are high in the antioxidant vitamin C which is proven to help the immune system and reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of colds. Vitamin C can also be found in berries, kiwi fruits, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, butternut squash and tomatoes.
Packed with antiviral properties and flavonoids to boost the immune system, they contain anthocyanins to help reduce inflammation and relieve bodily aches and pains.
Crushed raw garlic is a natural antiseptic and immune system aid. Rich in one of the best natural broad spectrum antibiotics ‘allicin’ it helps clear the nasal passages, offers protection from viral infection, and can help shorten the duration of an infection.
Onions and Leeks
Like garlic onions and leeks support the immune system due to their high content of natural antiseptics. They also help keep nasal passages clear and may help shorten the duration of a virus.
Ginger root contains chemicals called sequiterpenes that help fight rhinovirus , the most common cause of colds. Ginger also helps relieve pain and fever and can help lessen coughs
With antioxidant and antimicrobial properties raw honey is an excellent choice during winter. Soothing to the throat it creates a protective lining that helps reduce irritation and coughing.
High in selenium Brazil nuts can help the body increase its production of cytokines: proteins that can help rid the body of the flu virus. Selenium can also be found in high doses in shellfish, cod and tuna.
Rich in limonene a natural antiviral caraway seeds help fight cold and flu viruses.
BUT REMEMBER!!! Stay away from sugar when you are fighting any kind of infection. Eating sugar supresses the immune system and promotes inflammation within the body…two things we can definitely do without during the winter season.
By increasing the body’s production of cytokines mushrooms help support and strengthen the immune system. Musgrooms have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, provide antioxidants and assist circulation. They are also useful for energy production.
A valuable aid to the winter pantry black pepper is helpful in reducing coughs and congestion and can help reduce sore throats.
Essential every day clean filtered water supports immune function, aids the elimination of toxins from the body, helps reduce mucus build up in the throat and replaces any losses that occur during a fever.
Strong and hot! Eating horse radish is a natural way to help decongest the nose and throat thus relieving coughs and blocked noses.
High in the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain pineapple juice is helpful in reducing inflammation associated with nasal infections. It is also high in vitamin C.
Vegetables and fruits
High in antioxidants, phytochemicals, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, vegetables and fruit help prevent the production of histamine the chemical in our bodies responsible for sinus congestion and allergy symptoms. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also provide plenty of beta carotene which can help your body ward off viral infections.
High in zinc oysters offer immune protection by helping the body build up a defence network against viral invaders. Zinc can also be found in beef, cab, lobster, pork, chicken, cashew nuts, almonds, cheese, and chickpeas. But be careful not to overdo zinc intake…too much can have the opposite effect.