Winter Nutrition & More
The third and final part of my winter wellbeing articles is going to delve a little more about what nutrients are needed to help your body function at an optimal level during the colder months. We’ll also touch on a few herbal remedies that you can utilise at home as part of your routine.
What are some key nutrients?
First in the list is zinc – why? Because it’s an essential trace nutrient. Without adequate amounts of zinc in your body you cannot absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and your immune system may not function as well as it should. Zinc deficiency can drastically impair your body’s ability to adequately respond to infections, by reducing the number of white blood cells available to attack bacteria and viruses. Zinc also plays an important role in wound healing, cell growth and repair, skin hair and nail health, fertility and mental health. (1)
Some of the foods that zinc can be found in include oysters, red meats, liver, nuts (brazil, almond, pine, walnuts), chicken, eggs, tahini, garlic, fresh parsley, spinach and mushrooms. (2)
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another essential nutrient, and the body cannot synthesize it therefore we need to get it in our diet on a regular basis. Like zinc, it is required for wound healing and immune system function. It is also an antioxidant. During every day body processes, oxidation occurs which creates unstable molecules known as “free radicals”. These free radicals can cause damage to DNA and other cells – and an overload can lead to certain disease including heart disease, liver disease and some cancers. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, preventing some of the damage that they can cause. (3) You may have heard of scurrrrrrrrrvy (usually said with a pirate accent) – not common in this day and age but it is a condition that is caused by low levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps with iron absorption from plant-based sources. (4)
Foods that are high in vitamin C include strawberries, red capsicum, citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, tomatoes and snowpeas. (2)
3. Omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation in the body. However there is also some evidence to suggest that the DHA may also enhance the activity of B cells. (5)
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in cold water oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Plant based sources include flax seed and walnuts. (2)
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is crucial to immune function. Without sufficient intake of vitamin D, the body’s immune system will not have the capacity to fight off infections in the body. T-cells, which are the immune “killer” cells that seek out and destroy pathogens, must first be triggered into action by vitamin D before they can do their job. (1)
Some foods do contain vitamin D, including herring, cheese, milk and egg yolk, (2) however only in small amounts. The majority of our vitamin D is made by the body’s skin when it is exposed to sunshine. So, it is important to get out in the sun (utilizing safe sun guidelines of course!) to ensure sufficient vitamin D status in the body.
There are a number of herbs that are beneficial for the immune system.
* Garlic is one most people know about – it has antimicrobial and antisepticproperties (and is delicious!) so great to include as part of your every day diet during winter.
* Ginger is a circulatory stimulant – meaning it’s warming and perfect for winter. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and is wonderful in aiding digestion which can get sluggish during the cooler months.
* Cayenne is also a circulatory stimulant as well as helping to stimulate digestion, another warming herb which induces sweating and so helpful during acute infections and fevers.
* Thyme is an expectorant and spasmolytic, which means it can be helpful if you have a cough as a result of a cold. It can also be used as part of a throat gargle for tonsillitis. (6)
I’ve just touched on a few of the more common culinary herbs that you may grow or use regularly in cooking, however there are many more amazing herbs that can be used in teas or tinctures throughout winter to support your health and wellbeing. And remember – soups are an amazing way to incorporate delicious herbs and vegetables, while warming yourself up. I find that using a slow cooker is a brilliant way to do it, as you can chuck everything in at the start of the day before work and its ready when you get home.
If you are keen to find out more about what you can do to support your health during winter, please email email@example.com or call 9293 2999 to book a Naturopathic consultation with me and we can work together to keep you feeling healthy and happy. And don't forget about the Winter Wellbeing Packages currently on offer!
1. ScienceDaily. Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses2010 29 March 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100307215534.htm.
2. Metagenics. Foods High in Essential Nutrients. n.d.
3. Antioxidants2012 12 April, 2017. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants.
4. Supplements OoD. Vitamin C - Fact Sheet for Professionals. In: Services UDoHH, editor. 2016.
5. Gray N. Omega-3 backed to boost immune response, not just battle inflammation: Study2013 29 March 2017d. Available from: http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Omega-3-backed-to-boost-immune-response-not-just-battle-inflammation-Study.
6. Bone K. The Ultimate Herbal Compendium: A Desktop Guide for Herbal Prescribers: Phytotherapy Press; 2007.
Photo credit Annie Spratt, www.unplash.com