Hi, I am Kate. Not only am I the Membership Support Officer at Fordhall Community Land Initiative, looking after all our lovely members, but I am also a Registered Nutritional Therapist.
I love working at Fordhall because their ethos absolutely resonates with me and everything that I believe in. I actually trained to be a Nutritional Therapist to help support my family and friends with their health concerns as nutrition has always been a passion for me. However, over the years, the word has got around and I now have a lovely little business alongside my work with Fordhall.
So, for the winter Grazer I thought I would share with you my top tips for helping to support your immune system as we head into winter.
- Pack your plate full of fruit and veg
I always advise people to include seven to ten fruit and veg portions per day, with a focus on the vegetables. This will ensure that you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet, specifically, Vitamins A, C, E, as they are great for all-round immune support and help to reduce inflammation in the body. Vitamin C also helps to improve immune cell production, so is an essential vitamin to include in your diet during the winter months. Focus on eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables to get a good mix of antioxidants.
- Focus on gut health
Having a healthy gut is key to supporting a healthy immune system. Did you know that about 70% of our immune system is in our gut? There are around 100 trillion microbes residing in the gut, comprising hundreds of bacterial species, whose main function is to digest food and extract the nutrients from what you eat. These beneficial micro-organisms also help protect the body against pathogens and enable the immune system to work efficiently.
Probiotic foods help to populate our gut with good bacteria. Include probiotic foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha or tempeh.
Eating plenty of fibrous foods help to feed that good bacteria to make it nice and strong. Include plenty of fibrous fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds and pulses to keep the bacteria fed and abundant.
- Spice things up a bit
By including plenty of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet such as turmeric, ginger and garlic, you are helping to support the immune system and its ability to respond to an inflammatory health concern when it first occurs. Prolonged inflammation in the body may lead onto other more serious health concerns. During the winter months you can include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods in stews and soups. I’ve included one of my favourite recipes for anti-inflammatory turmeric tea at the bottom of the article incase anybody fancies trying it.
- Include zinc in your diet:
Zinc is a key nutrient for a strong immunity as it is crucial for normal development and function of cells in the immune system. Zinc is also an antioxidant and helps play a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during illness. Nuts and seeds contain good levels of zinc, along with seafood, cacao powder, spinach, mushrooms, kefir, chicken and beef.
- Get some sunshine Vitamin D
Easier said than done at this time of year! Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a weakened immune system. As you probably know, we get most of our Vitamin D through exposure to the sun, but only at specific times of the day and year. Therefore, NHS guidelines now recommend that we all take Vitamin D supplements during the winter if our levels are low. We can get a bit of Vitamin D from foods such as mushrooms, salmon and eggs, but not really at the levels we need, so it’s beneficial to get a good supplement. However, it has been said that you can increase the Vitamin D levels of mushrooms by leaving them on your kitchen windowsill for a while before using them.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
All too often in the cooler months we forget to drink enough healthy fluids. By healthy fluids I mean fluids that hydrate such as water and herbal ‘teas’. Unfortunately, caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee can be quite dehydrating, which can affect the body’s ability to eliminate toxins and waste materials effectively. By drinking plenty of hydrating fluids you will be supporting your immune system to fight off infection better.
- And last but not least … take time for yourself!
Spend time doing things you love: being outside in nature, gentle exercise, deep breathing, reading a book, painting or just having a lovely long bath. All too often we spend our lives running around after others and forget about ourselves. Try to give yourself at least ten to fifteen minutes each day for something you love to do. It’s like giving yourself a nice big hug.
Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Tea
½ lemon squeezed
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of black pepper
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp coconut oil
1 inch grated fresh ginger
Add all ingredients to a teapot then add hot water, stir and leave to brew for a few minutes. Strain into a mug and enjoy!
Kate, Fordhall’s resident nutritionist
This article was first featured in the Winter 2020 edition of the Grazer magazine. For more info and to subscribe, visit:
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