The days are shorter and darker, the air is colder, and somehow your jeans have become a bit more snug. Yep, it sounds like Winter.
Winter can be a difficult time for many, both mentally and physically. Our bodies become more susceptible to all kinds of winter nasties like the cold and flu. While for most people, it seems tempting to just stay inside rugged up and keep away from it all, being proactive about your health and wellbeing will help ensure that you make it through Winter cold and flu-free (we hope).
Here are my A-Z tips to boost your immune system, prevent the dreaded flu and ward off winter weight-gain.
A) Antioxidants: Antioxidants are chemical compounds that stop free radicals from damaging healthy cells. Stocking up on antioxidant-rich foods will help boost your immune system, reducing the risk of infections such as colds. Top high antioxidant foods; Goji berries, Blueberries, Dark chocolate, Pecans, Artichoke, Kidney beans, Cranberries, Blackberries, Dark green veggies.
B) Body Brush: Rev-up your blood flow every morning by dry body brushing from top to toe. Not only is it a great all-over exfoliation, the simple task also encourages circulation and stimulates the body’s lymphatic system, which helps remove toxins. Use smooth, long strokes and brush towards your heart.
C) Chicken Soup: On a cold winter’s night, nothing beats a bowl of hot chicken soup, but did you know chicken soup is also a natural antibiotic? The soup is antimicrobial and will give your body energy to heal. Add lots of nourishing foods like garlic, onion, chicken, ginger, lemon, turmeric, cabbage, carrot, redcapsicum and chilli.
D) Drink Up: It’s hard to consume as much water in winter because we don’t get that “hot and thirsty” reminder we get when it’s warm. Keep a bottle of water on hand and make a conscious effort to sip it throughout the day. Aim for at least 8 glasses total. Staying hydrated ensures you don’t mistake thirst for hunger (leading to unwanted weight gain) and guards your body against infection.
E) Echinacea: Establishing a strong immune system is the best protection we can give ourselves against infection. This age-old remedy can be taken preventively or to treat cold symptoms.
F) Flu Shot: Getting the influenza vaccination means you’ll be better protected from the flu all year round. Immunisation uses the body’s naturaldefence mechanism – the immune system – to build resistance to an infection.
G) Green Tea: The health benefits of green tea seem to be growing each day. The miracle drink contains catechin, a type of antioxidant that is proven to help prevent the flu. Try adding freshly squeezed lemon and a squeeze of manuka honey for an even better boost of antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties.
H) Hand Sanitiser: Less time spent out in the fresh air and more time trapped indoors increases our exposure to germs during winter. Germs spread faster in closed quarters so to keep bugs and illness at bay, ensure you have hand sanitizer ready at all times. Pay particular attention to areas around the fingernails and any injuries. Any object that you touch frequently, such as door handles, computer keyboards, phones and light switches, should be wiped down with a sanitising wipe to prevent contamination.
I) Immune-Boosting Foods: Upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamins A and C and antioxidants ensures a healthy immune system. Try foods such as seaweed, spinach, ginger, garlic, miso, onion and yoghurt.
J) Juice: Feeling sluggish during the cooler months? Try an energy-boosting freshly squeezed juice. Kick-start your day with a vitamin C-rich carrot and orange juice. Add ingredients like ginger, beetroot and leafy greens such as kale and spinach for added antioxidants.
K) Keep a Food Diary: A combination of comfort-food cravings and leading a less active lifestyle can quickly lead to unwanted winter-weight gain. An easy way to stay in control is by keeping a food diary. Recording what you eat will make you accountable for things like portion size and overindulging.
L) Light: Long dark days and limited sunlight easily affect our mood and can even result in seasonal affective disorder. Combat the winter blues by making a concerted effort to get at least one hour of sunlight during the day. If you are not getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, try taking a vitamin D supplement.
M) Me Time: Take time out to pamper yourself – run a hot bath (add Epsom salt – great for relaxing the body, easing stress, sore muscles and eliminating toxins from the body) or try getting a massage. Being run down is one of the most common reasons we get sick, so some quality ‘me time’ ensures your wellbeing.
N) Nuts and Seeds: Not only are they a fantastic snack, nuts and seeds contain immune-boosting minerals selenium and zinc. Have a few pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts or almonds handy for a healthy snack on the run.
O) Omega-3: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help combat dry skin and have mood-boosting neurological benefits, which can help with overall happiness during winter. Good fats also help to maintain body temperature and transport essential vitamins around the body, which is especially important during winter. Good sources of omega-3 include nuts, flaxseed and oily fish such as salmon. If you aren’t getting enough through your diet, a fish oil supplement may be useful.
P) Probiotics: Probiotics are great for digestive health, but new studies show that they are good for an immune boost too. Illness-fighting probiotics in foods such as yoghurt, miso and fermented cheese all help to boost good bacteria in your gut.
Q) Quick Snacks: To stop you from bingeing on junk, keep healthy snacks on hand to have between meals e.g. fruit, nuts, small bowl of instant oats, soup, eggs, chopped celery, cucumber and carrots, protein shake.
R) Rug Up: Don’t get caught out in the cold without the proper attire. Invest in a winter jacket, scarf and gloves so that your core temperature isn’t affected once you’re outside. Not being dressed appropriately for the temperature out side is the quickest way to wind up ill.
S) Steam: There’s nothing worse than being all stuffy and blocked up. To help break down the congestion, boil a big pot of water and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil. With a towel over your head and the pot, inhale the steam for a good 15-20 minutes.
T) Tissues: The best way to prevent the spread of germs is by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze – and then immediately dispose of the tissue after use. Keep a packet of tissues handy at all times to ensure you’re not that person who is constantly sniffling.
U) Under the Weather: If you’ve come down with something, the first thing to do is see a doctor to determine the exact problem. Then you need plenty of rest and loads of water to help your body recuperate. Your doctor may recommend decongestants, lozenges and herbal teas.
V) Vitamin C: This vitamin is vital for a healthy immune system. Throughout the colder months, stock-up on vitamin-C rich foods, such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, strawberries, broccoli and red and green capsicums.
W) Wash your Hands: The most common way a cold is spread is through hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold, or by touching a surface that a person with a cold has touched. Be extra vigilant when it comes to washing your hands before every meal.
X) X-ercise: It may be the last thing you want to do, but exercising will not only stop those kilos creeping on, but it will also help prevent illness. Studies have shown that people who exercised 5 or more times a week had 43% fewer days with an upper respiratory tract infection than their less active peers.
Y) Yoga: Defrost your body with Bikram yoga; a class done in 38°C rooms, designed to warm muscles, prevent injury and allow a deeper workout.
Z) Zzz: Whats the top defence against a cold? REST. If you are having trouble sleeping, spend some quiet time at home resting, meditate, do some gentle stretches or simply wind down in a hot bath.