During the colder winter months, it’s important that we focus on boosting the immune system and looking after our health and wellbeing.
Planning healthy, nutritious meals that not only satisfy and provide comfort but also provide nutritional benefits is key during the winter months! Here are some top tips to help support your wellbeing and boost your immune system over the winter months, from good nutrition to hydration and supplements.
Choose nutritious comfort foods
The cold weather and long nights can increase the temptation to comfort eat in the winter. Try to avoid comforting eating with processed foods that don't benefit your health and wellbeing and instead focus on healthy, warming yet nutritious meals!
Soup, stews, and casseroles are not only the perfect comfort meals but also provide a range of nutrition to support our health and wellbeing in the winter months. Common ingredients used in these dishes like onions, garlic, and any other vegetables that come with a healthy dose of phytonutrients are vital for a well-functioning immune system.
Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Fruit and veg contain powerful antioxidants that support the immune system. It’s best to choose fruit and veg that are in season like mushrooms, beetroot, leeks, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.
You’ve probably all heard about vitamin C being crucial for immune support. You’re likely to be getting enough vitamin C in your diet if you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables!
The advice given is to take a supplement of vitamin D (10 micrograms) during the winter months, as vitamin D is the “sunshine” vitamin which we do not get enough of in the colder, darker months!
In addition to supplementation, try to include foods like oily fish including salmon, mackerel and sardines in your diet during the winter months as these are good sources of vitamin D and there are also vitamin D fortified milks and yoghurt available.
Your skin lacks moisture in the winter months and drinking enough water is going to help your skin as well as your concentration and mood. It plays such a crucial role in how productive we can be on a day-to-day basis. Don't forget, teas and coffees also contribute towards your water intake - herbal teas are a great way of increasing your water intake while cutting down on caffeine intake.
Use snacks to boost your zinc and selenium intake
Zinc & Selenium both play a crucial role in supporting our overall immune system and are particularly important during the winter months. We tend to snack a little more during the winter months as we spend more time indoors in the evenings, so why not use this to boost your intake of these vital nutrients!
Zinc is found in nuts and seeds. Brazil nuts, just two a day, can give you your overall recommended intake of selenium.
Restriction is not the answer!
Often winter can cause some anxiety about weight gain or fear about breaking healthy habits. This can lead to restriction of important food groups to overcome these feelings. However, restriction is NOT the answer! Focus this year on what you can add to your plate and on portion control instead of focusing on what to leave off and use the following guide as to how to fill your plate:
½ of your plate with vegetables or salad
-These will provide fibre as well as a whole array of beneficial vitamins and minerals vital for a healthy immune system during the winter months such as vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium.
¼ of your plate with rice, pasta or potatoes
-Choose wholemeal or wholegrain where possible! This will ensure you’re getting a slow release of energy to keep you full and nourished during these colder days!
¼ of your plate with a good source of protein.
-Try to mix up your protein sources eggs and plant based protein rich foods such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans and lentils are great source of plant based protein.