Restrictions are tightening not just in Scotland and the UK, but around the world. To do our part, we wanted to create an informative series of articles to ensure our members, our friends and our families stay healthy during both winter and a potential second lockdown. To begin the series, we want to look at how you can maintain optimal health by eating well in winter.
As the colder weather hits, we become more prone to catching coughs, colds, the flu and for some of us winter weight gain. This year, we have the additional risk of Covid, and whilst sticking to a healthy diet might not prevent you from picking up a winter illness, it can help maintain your immune system to better protect you. And if you do fall ill, a nutritious diet can help speed up recovery.
Below we explore three nutrients that can help prepare your immune system for winter.
Vitamin D –
Ensuring you are getting an appropriate intake of protein, vitamins and minerals are essential to maintaining your bodies natural defences against disease. Whilst we have heard a lot about the importance of vitamin C, and rightly so, there is another vitamin that could be vital in the fight against winter illnesses, vitamin D. A review of existing data in the British Medical Journal 2017 estimates that supplementing food with vitamin D could prevent millions of cold and flu cases, and possibly save lives.
Our skin can absorb vitamin D from the sun, but if you have been to, or lived in Scotland you will know that between the months of October and March there isn’t much sunlight at all. Meaning to ensure you are getting enough of this vital vitamin you should look at supplementing through either diet or vitamins. Dietary sources of vitamin D include – oily fish such as sardines, salmon or mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, mushrooms or fortified foods.
Plant Polyphenols –
Plant polyphenols are potent antioxidant compounds, naturally found in fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate and even red wine. They have been found to neutralise free radicals in the body reducing inflammation, your potential risks of diabetes, heart disease, blood clots, and some cancers. They have also been found to improve immune function, brain function, digestion and athletic performance.
There are plenty of options for those who like to eat seasonally, to eat polyphenol-rich food in winter. Some of our favourite sources include – kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, apples, citrus fruits, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, pumpkins and squash, rhubarb, red wine, dark chocolate and root vegetables.
A recent study found that probiotics can help strengthen your immune function and reduce your risk of the common cold. The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection and can occur in anyone, at any age. Since the common cold cannot be cured, the best thing you can do is strengthen your immune system through diet, ensure you are getting enough sleep in an attempt to try and avoid catching it in the first place.
Sources of probiotics include yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha and pickles.
As noted above, ensuring you are eating vital nutrients like vitamin D, plant polyphenols and probiotics are key to staying healthy not just in lockdown, but for the rest of your life. If you are looking to include the above foods but aren’t sure where to start, we have created a recipe pack that you can purchase here to ensure you are getting the most out of your what you eat, all year round.