The winter months can often take a toll on our bodies. When the weather is cold, your skin feels dry and your muscles and joints tend to get stiff and sore. It becomes harder to get out of bed and easier to fall into a slump. The last thing you need is a cough, cold or infection. But, of course, winter is the most common time of year to get sick. Over 70% of our immune system is found in our gut, thankfully, eating nutritious food can help nourish the body and boost your immune system. Having a strong immune system is your best defence.
Here are my five secret weapons when it comes to fighting the winter blues:
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that stimulates the immune system. It prompts the body to produce white blood cells that work on the frontline to defend against foreign bacteria and viruses as they enter the body. Vitamin C is water-soluble and can’t be stored in the body. This means it’s absolutely crucial that we include vitamin C every day in our diet to keep our levels up. Luckily nature gives us a huge supply of vitamin C rich fruit and vegetables to enjoy all year round especially in autumn and winter: oranges, lemons, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage.
Zinc is one of the most important minerals when it comes to body function and a healthy immune system. Most animal sources such as beef, lamb, pork, liver, oysters and egg yolks, contain zinc. If you’re not a lover of meat, you can get your daily dose of zinc from brazil nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, mustard and chili powder.
There’s a good reason why vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin. It is not only important for bone health but also for boosting your immune system. Many people find that the sun does not always provide adequate amounts of vitamin D. For that extra boost, try to include some oily fish into your diet – salmon, cod, sardines, mackerel and tuna are all great options. The best way to test your vitamin D levels is to ask your doctor for a blood test. If you find you do need a supplement, my recommendation would be a vitamin D 3 cholecalciferol.
Herbs are easy to grow and are jam-packed with immune-boosting properties. My three favorites are parsley, thyme and oregano. Parsley is a great source of vitamin C and can be easily incorporated into a number of recipes. Thyme is high in vitamin C and vitamin A as well as being anti-microbial. It has been used in the treatment of coughs for centuries. Oregano is high in vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and immune booster.
Growing these herbs at home is a great way to get the kids into the garden and get them excited about healthy food.
Mushrooms, in particular, shiitake, have been shown to boost the immune system. Mushrooms tend to absorb pollutants from their environment so, where possible, aim to buy certified organic.