This week's blog is from Nutritionist Deborah Sherlock, Deborah is the founder of Proactive Nutrition. Deborah gives some simple but effective Winter wellness tips and recipes for the when the temperatures dip!
Winter is here. Along with this drop in temperature we are also faced with cold and flu season. It is vital to take steps to avoid infection and keep your immune system strong to avoid those sniffles. Fortunately, we have a complex system - the immune system which acts as the body’s own defence force. Its job is to identify what is not part of us, examine it and decide whether it is a threat, in which case it will try to fight it. The key is to keep this immune defence strong and healthy.
How can we best support our immune system? I have included some top tips for winter wellness and a strong immune system below:
Get plenty of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important vitamin for our immune system. Vitamin C makes collagen, the connective network of tissues in your skin and bones, as well as carnitine, without which you feel would be feeling tired and weak. It is also an antioxidant, working hard in combination with other antioxidants to stop the kind of damage to individual cells that causes heart disease. It also gets to work every time you eat iron-rich food making sure that you absorb as much of the iron as possible. Kiwis, oranges, lemons, broccoli, kale and peppers are rich sources of vitamin C.
Eat a balanced diet
Vitamins A, C, D and E as well as minerals selenium and zinc and omega 3’s are vital for immunity. Vitamin A is crucial for strengthening the gut lining which acts as a barrier against pathogens. It can also boost the activity of immune cells. Zinc is important for enhancing the activity of immune cells. Antioxidants are molecules that prevent damage to the cells and tissues and reduce inflammation. Focus on a balanced diet of wholefoods of lean proteins, nuts, seeds and wholegrains as well as a wealth of fruit and fresh vegetables. Keep sugar and processed food to a minimum. Curries and casseroles are a great way to pack in a lot of nutrients and fibre in one go. They are also great for time saving and batch cooking to prepare a few days meals in advance.
Warm Vegetable Coconut Curry
- Handful of Spinach
- Can of chickpeas
- Vegetable Stockpot or vegetable stock cube
- Can of coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons of Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon of parsley
- ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Chop all your veggies. You can use a selection of whatever vegetables you enjoy. Sauté vegetables in a little oil in a large pan.
- Add in spices and sauté further until vegetables are a little soft.
- Add in tomatoes and a cup of water and stock cube and leave to cook on a low heat for 20 mins.
- Add coconut milk and a can of chickpeas and leave to simmer on a low heat for further 10 mins.
- Pair with basmati or wholegrain rice or noodles and enjoy.
Staying hydrated is probably the best thing you can do for your body. It is just as important in winter to drink fluids as it is in summer. If you find it hard drinking cold water then try warming drinks such as herbal teas, teas or coffees and soups which contribute to daily fluid intake.
Juices, smoothies and soups are a great way of getting a lot of nutrients in one go, along with increasing fluid intake in the winter months. Try adding warming spices like cumin and cinnamon to give them a more warm seasonal taste. Try this quick easy nourishing recipe of a sweet pepper and tomato soup.
Roast Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
- 2 sweet red peppers
- 1 onion
- 12 tomatoes
- 1 vegetable stockpot or stock cube
- Salt and pepper to season
- 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil to roast vegetables
- Place tomatoes, red pepper and onion on a baking tray and sprinkle with oil.
- Bake until soft at a high temperature
- Once your vegetables are roasted, transfer them all to a large pot. Fill with boiling water just covering your vegetables and add a stockpot.
- Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes. Once fully cooked, blend to a desired consistency. Add water if too thick.
- Enjoy with some seeded bread for a perfect healthy lunch.
Sleep and Stress
Chronic stress and fatigue can lower immunity and increase risk of illness. Try to get at least 8 hours good sleep at night.
Good Gut Bacteria
80% of our immune system is in the gut. A balanced gut flora is so so important for optimum health. The best way is to boost our levels of good bacteria. Probiotics are good gut bacteria and can be found in fermented food products like yogurts and probiotic drinks, kefir, miso, kombucha and sauerkraut or as a food supplement. Prebiotic food will enhance the gut bacteria that is present there already for e.g. onions, artichoke and garlic.
Vitamin D is vital for a strong immune system, and while we do store vitamin D in our bodies from the summer, most of us don’t get enough of this nutrient during the winter. Dairy products, mushrooms, fish and eggs are good sources of vitamin D when the sun just won’t shine. National policy is to supplement with 10 micrograms of Vitamin D3 for the winter months.
Exercise improves our sleep pattern, energy levels, mental health and strength. Try to find the time even when the weather is bad to go to a class or have a brisk walk. Your body will thank you for it!
Boost your immune systemTry this warm, cleansing and nourishing immune boosting hot drink of lemon, ginger, turmeric & honey
- Juice ½ a lemon
- Grate 1cm piece of fresh ginger
- Grate 1 cm piece of fresh turmeric
- ½ tsp honey
Mix the above ingredients in warm (not hot) water, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Don’t use really hot water as it will destroy many of the beneficial nutrients.
This combo of ingredients makes a powerful drink!
About Deborah & Proactive Nutrition
Proactive Nutrition is a nutrition consultation business based in Co. Sligo founded by Deborah Sherlock. Deborah provides expert advice in health and wellbeing, specialising in food intolerance testing, one to one consultations, sports & exercise nutrition, weight management, healthy eating plans and body composition analysis.
Deborah holds an Honours Degree in Microbiology from NUI Galway and a master’s in human nutrition from the University of Ulster. She is a registered member of the Association for Nutrition (afN), The Nutrition Society and The Association of Health Promotion Ireland.
She has recently lectured in sports and exercise nutrition, health promotion and nutrition through the life stages in Sligo I.T and worked with UCD and the National Nutritional Surveillance centre as part of a 10 year European World Health Organization study on childhood obesity.
Deborah has worked as a performance nutritionist with Sligo Rugby club and The Warriors Run. She has run a number of successful weight loss programmes to date. She also runs Root Juice which is a cold pressed juice company which supplies healthy cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices to a number of local businesses in Sligo.
Deborah is a lifelong vegetarian, keen juicer and wellness advocate. She has always had a keen interest in health and wellbeing from a very young age. She is firm believer in finding the right balance and tailor makes every nutrition plan to cater for every client’s specific