While colder weather can't make us sick, viruses do thrive in lower temperatures so we're always more likely to get sick during the winter months. We can't hibernate for the entire winter, so our best defence against getting sick is strengthening the immune system and taking extra care of our bodies during this time when we're more vulnerable. Here are my ten best tips for staying cold and flu free this season.
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1. Stick to a wholefood diet rich in colourful antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants contain an array of phytochemicals that help support a healthy immune system.
2. Consume plenty of high-quality proteins - inadequate protein is linked to immune dysfunction.
3. Choose cooked over raw - warm foods are gentler on the body during the colder months. Soups, curries, broths and stews that incorporate plenty of vegies, herbs and warming spices are easily digested and nutrient dense.
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4. Garlic has antioxidant, antimicrobial and immune-enhancing properties. It's imperative to prepare garlic properly by crushing or chopping it, then allowing it to sit for 10 minutes before cooking or ingesting it in order to get the full nutritional benefit.
5. Look after your gut - 80 per cent of our immune system resides in the gut, so take care of it by consuming pre and probiotic-rich foods, plenty of fibre and water, and cutting down on processed foods, refined sugar and alcohol.
6. Prioritise sleep - while we're sleeping our bodies are healing. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system and robs the body of this crucial time for restoration. Make the most of the longer nights by increasing your hours spent in bed.
7. Start the day with an immune-boosting tonic - into a blender add the juice of two lemons, a large knob of ginger, a knob of turmeric (or 2 teaspoons powdered), one teaspoon of raw honey and four cups of filtered water. This makes enough for three days.
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8. Reduce stress - stress wears down the body and is known to have a detrimental effect on the immune system. Identify the causes of stress in your life and any underlying emotional issues and do your best to address them. Ensure plenty of time for relaxation during the winter months, prioritising time at home over socialising.
9. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and powerful immunostimulant. The most concentrated food sources include capsicum, chilli, oranges, blackcurrants and strawberries. Citrus fruits, parsley, papaya, cabbage and broccoli are also good sources. During the winter months it's worth supplementing vitamin C (500mg taken two times daily) for prevention, increasing to four times daily during an acute infection.
10. Zinc is an equally important mineral for reducing the frequency and severity of colds and flu. Zinc is found in meat, eggs and seafood (especially oysters and shellfish), nuts, pepita seeds and mushrooms.