Embrace that winter feeling

As you feel the temperature drop, the cold wind on your skin and the gloomy greyness fills the sky do not despair, your mood can be bright and sunny throughout the winter months. There are many things that you can do to stay positive and healthy during the winter to optimise your immune system to keep the viruses at bay. much of what your body needs to keep your immune system strong can be found in foods, so try following these tips to help you stay infection-free over the winter months.

1. Get as much vitamin C as possible by eating at least 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit per day (ideally 6 veg and 3 fruit). Foods particularly high in vitamin C include broccoli, peppers, asparagus, kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges. If you are prone to colds, you might consider supplementing 1g per day of vitamin C per day through the winter months.

2. Zinc is critical for the work of the immune system. Try increasing the amount of egg yolks, almonds, cashews, turkey, lean red meat and oysters that you eat. They are all high in zinc.

3. Include lots of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric in your cooking. These ingredients are all anti-bacterial and anti-viral, so help to kill off infections. Try a home-made curry once a week.

4. Keep your fluid intake up. 6-8 glasses of water each day is ideal. Mugs of herbal tea count towards this. Why not start your day with a glass of warm water and ginger or lemon.

5. The anti-oxidant nutrient beta-carotene is a great immune booster. It’s found in orange and dark green coloured foods. Try eating more sweet potatoes, carrots, mango, apricots, butternut squash, spinach, broccoli and watercress.

6. Eat more mushrooms. Substances called beta-glucans found in mushrooms have been shown to help modulate the immune system. You can also buy supplements containing beta-glucans.

7. Have more cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, pak choi, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. These all include lots of the infection-fighting phytonutrients which help boost your immune function. Try steaming rather than boiling the vegetables to help preserve their nutrient content.

8. Vitamin E stimulates the production of immune cells. Get more vitamin E by eating almonds, avocados, oats, seeds and brown rice.

9. Cut back on alcohol (sorry!). Excess alcohol means depriving your body of valuable immune boosting nutrients, as they are used by your liver for detoxification instead.

10. Make sure that you are not deficient in vitamin D, which strengthens the innate immune system. 90% of your vitamin D stores are made by the action of sun on your skin; only 10% comes from food sources like eggs, oily fish and butter. Adequate sun exposure can be hard to come by in the winter months, so consider supplementing 400 IU (10 micrograms) of vitamin D3 a day until spring.

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