Summer is slowly coming to an end just as we are being let out of our bubble. So now is a good time to be planning ahead to the winter months when we are more prone to colds and flu and thinking of how we can continue to keep ourselves well and healthy. Here are my top recommendations and health tips:
1. It’s generally been the case that flu epidemics tend to die out in the spring which is partly due to the warmer weather but also the increase in sunshine. Interesting how most of the countries exposed to Covid-19 in their summer have appeared to get off lighter. That could be due to the high levels of Vitamin D that we get from sunshine. Vitamin D is known for protecting our bones but it is equally if not more important for your immune system. Take a daily Vitamin D3 supplement through the winter and give it to your children as well. And get out into the sunshine whenever you can.
2. Vitamin C is the front-line defence against viruses and bacteria – you can get good amounts from fruit and vegetables but I would always recommend a little extra through the winter. A maintenance dose of 1000mg daily and increase at the first sign of a cold or flu to 3000mg daily. Try the liposomal Vitamin C which is readily available now and better absorbed.
3. Zinc is an important mineral for your immune system. Generally there is a deficiency in the soil in New Zealand so I generally recommend supplementing if you are susceptible to colds and flu. A daily dose of around 25mg is plenty. Drinking green tea, eating apples, onions, berries, broccoli and citrus fruits will help increase your absorption of zinc. Great food sources of zinc are oysters, pumpkin seeds and lentils.
4. The more information that we learn about your Microbiome – that is the millions of bacteria that reside all over the body and specifically in the gut – the more information there is about the role it plays in keeping our immune system healthy. Probiotics are vital to rebalance the gut flora after a course of antibiotics but otherwise I encourage everyone to eat plenty of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir and to eat plenty of fibre rich foods – all vegetables particularly leafy greens, legumes and onions and garlic. These foods feed the bacteria in the gut and keep the mix healthy to improve immunity.
Dietary wise: Make a large percentage of your diet fruit and vegetables rich to provide the plant phytonutrients to keep you well. In addition eat plenty of wholegrain and legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils and butter beans which will feed all that good bacteria in your gut. Get your fat source from nuts, seeds, avocados, fish and good quality oils. Be selective around animal products – choose organic when you can and have as an adjunct to the rest of your diet.
Increase the amount of garlic and onions as natural antiviral foods. Spices also have antiviral properties – cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cayenne as do herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano as well as parsley and coriander.
Advice and tips from our nutritionist Nellie Pigot