How to stay well in winter
Article was written by Emily Hope - NZ Registered Nutritionist, Emily has a love for food, nutrition and the power to better people's lives.
Now we’re in the depths of the Winter months, it’s important to remember to support your immunity and wellbeing through the foods and beverages that you choose to consume. Here are some top tips:
1. Fluid to Flourish
However, during the colder months, it can be more difficult to consume fluid because we are less drawn to cool fluids when it’s cold outside. But, despite it being Winter, our bodies still need plenty of fluid to flourish! To help encourage fluid consumption over Winter you can:- Add things such as sliced lemon, frozen blueberries or mint leaves to your water bottle or water jug to make the water look and taste more appealing. This is especially useful when eating as a family around the table. My young daughter loves gathering the mint and lemon for the water jug! - Enjoy beverages (and foods) with high-water content such as milk, herbal tea (opt for more caffeine-free options than tea and coffee), soups and broths. These will all contribute valuable amounts of fluid to your daily intake. - Try a mug of freshly boiled water muddled with freshly squeezed lemon juice, Manuka honey and freshly grated ginger. This is not only a wonderful source of Vitamin C and other nutrients to help soothe a sore throat that commonly appears during Winter, but it also provides a delicious source of warming fluid. - Incorporate a warming drink into your evening routine, such as this Nourishing Turmeric Latte to help provide fluid as well as being a delicious way to wind down before bed. Turmeric is well-known for its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits with curcumin being the main active ingredient. Nature is very clever because when curcumin is consumed alongside black pepper, the curcumin is more readily absorbed by the body. Something to keep in mind if someone asks you why you are adding black pepper your turmeric latte!
2. Building Immunity
In addition to consuming enough fluid, nourishing your body with wholesome and nutritious foods helps to build a strong and healthy immune system by warding off the increased number of illnesses that seem to be present at this time of the year. In terms of what you eat, there are several foods and nutrients that are needed to support an optimal immune system such as:
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables and enjoying a range of these across different colours. Enjoying seasonal fruits and vegetables means they are at their peak in terms of nutritional quality. One key nutrient found in fruits and vegetables that is especially important over Winter is Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the body from damage and helps to support the body from infection. It is found in highest amounts in foods such as citrus fruits, kiwifruit and greens such as broccoli. These foods also provide beneficial bacteria and fibre for a healthy gut.
- Wholegrains (such as brown rice, oats and quinoa) in addition to leafy greens are a great source of B vitamins. These help to regulate our immune response. An important thing to remember here is that because both vitamin C and B vitamins are water-soluble they cannot be stored in the body, and therefore need to be consumed on a daily basis to support optimal immunity. A good reason to enjoy the rainbow daily!
- Foods such as red meat, oysters, eggs, and seeds provide a valuable source of zinc which is needed for a strong and healthy immune system. - Foods such as red meat, oysters, eggs, and seeds provide a valuable source of zinc which is needed for a strong and healthy immune system.
- In addition, red meat is a valuable source of haem-iron as well as mussels. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin in our blood which transports oxygen around the body and our immune system depends on a healthy intake of iron to work optimally. While haem-iron is found in animal foods and is efficiently absorbed by the body, non-haem iron is found in plant foods such as lentils, leafy greens and some dried fruit such as dried apricots. The body absorbs both types of iron better in the presence of vitamin C. Another reason to enjoy plenty of vitamin-C rich vegetables and fruits!
- It is important to note, that, as well as the foods outlined above, eating a range of wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, quality dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt), meats, seafood and eggs will provide a multitude of valuable nutrients to support not only immunity, but also all of your body’s essential functions. This means we are likely to feel more energised because our body is getting all the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive!
3. The Power of Fresh Air
As well as nourishing your body via food and beverages, a key part to feeling your best over the cooler months is to ensure you spend plenty of time outside:
- Spending time outdoors helps our body to produce optimal levels of melatonin at night-time which in turns helps to support restorative sleep.
- Enjoy time outside while letting the sun directly touch your skin (without clothes or sunscreen). The action of the sun on our skin triggers a biochemical reaction whereby Vitamin D is synthesised within the body. This vitamin-D is needed by the body to help it absorb calcium efficiently and to support immunity. It is also thought to be protective against mental health disorders such as depression. Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin and for good reason! Some ideas for getting active and supporting sufficient Vitamin D levels over the Winter months could include things like wrapping up warm and going for a walk outside, biking with family or friends along a regional track, getting involved in a Winter sport, an afternoon Winter beach walk or simply spending time outside in the garden! Just regular exposure of the sun on your bare face and hands for 15-20 minutes is a good goal to aim for. Please note that in Winter, exposing your skin to the sun is with less risk of sunburn than during the summer months, however, you still need to be mindful about choosing a time of day when it is safest to expose your skin to the sun.
4. Social Connection
We all know about the benefits of a close-knit bubble and while Winter can be a time of hibernation, social interaction is necessary for both our emotional and mental wellbeing.
Nurture social interaction by:
- Checking in with friends and family, especially older adults or those with conditions that require them to spend more time at home who may be more isolated and have limited social interactions. You may like to cook them something or invite them over for a meal or warming drink, take them out for a walk on a sunny day or simply pop in and share some time with them.
- Plan a domestic Winter getaway to somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. If ever there was a time to explore our very own backyard, now is it! We are lucky here in New Zealand to be surrounded by a glorious coastline, towering mountains and wide-open spaces, meaning looking after ourselves by spending time outdoors and moving our body in a way we enjoy are far more accessible than many other places so let’s make the most of it.
Happy Winter New Zealand!
Photography by Lisa Duncan