Winter is well and truly upon us in here Northern Hemisphere. People are sniffing, coughing, spluttering and sneezing everywhere you go. A cold every now and then (say two or three times a year) is normal – in fact, they’re good for our immune systems (including children). However, some people may be heard complaining about having a colds all winter – one after the other, or being unable to shake their child’s cough. Cue sleepless nights, fatigue the next day, aches and pains and poor appetite and whatever else comes with a cold/flu depending on the virus. Yes, it’s a fact: 66 to 75% of colds are caused by 200 different viruses which is why there is no effective antiviral for the common cold. For the flu, a jab may be on offer, but the leading doctors only recommend those for people at high risk, given the potential for side effects and development of resistance.
So, what can you do when it’s cold and damp and you have to go to work, the kids have to go to school and the bugs surround you? You can put these tips to use – some simple, good food and nutrition tips to help strengthen your natural defences this winter:
Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. It can be difficult to stay hydrated through the winter months with central heating so make sure you drink enough liquid. 8 cups is the classic recommended intake…but for real measure, take your body weight in kg, multiply by 31, that gives you the mls of water you should drink per day: e.g. a 55kg person x 31 =1700ml (just over a litre and a half). For those of you who don’t like drinking plain old water, try jazzing it up with a squeeze of lemon or orange, or infuse a bottle of water with pieces of cucumber, mint or strawberries. Try and stay clear of concentrated juices and squash or cordial as these contain too much sugar – bad news for energy swings and vitamin C uptake by the body. If you must drink them, water them down 1:3 juice:water. Tea and coffee don’t count as fluid because, with their diuretic effect, they actually take water out of the body. Soups and broths with fresh vegetables (batch cook and freeze), green tea and herbal teas, especially ginger and echinacea or hibiscus, are also great ways to keep the fluid intake up.
Eat a protein with each meal and snack. Protein is made up of amino acids and these guys are the building blocks of life. All of our our immune cells and detoxification systems need those aminos to function properly. Beans, pulses (peas!), seeds and nuts are good vegetable protein sources. With animal proteins, remember to keep ‘clean and lean’ – do this by choosing organic or wild meat with the excess fat removed.
Season your food with garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. All of these have antioxidant, detoxification and antimicrobial properties. In fact, the rawer the garlic the better (choose a parsely sprig after to neutralise garlic breath!)
Increase your vegetable and fruit intake. 5 a day is really the absolute minimum; if you want to be really healthy then have 6 or 7 differently-coloured vegetables and 2 or 3 pieces of fruit. So that’s 3 veggies (roughly the size of a handful) with each lunch and dinner, a piece of fruit as dessert or with breakfast or as a snack (remember to have nuts & seeds). Fruits and vegetables are packed with all of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to help keep the colds away.