Winter can be a time of less variety in the diet. There are fewer fruit and vegetables in season, the power houses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our immune system thrives on.
How can we increase the variety?
Canned foods despite popular belief are not packed with preservatives. The canning keeps the produce sealed, free from oxygen that would allow many bacteria to grow. Sometimes there may be added salt which you can rinse off. A small amount of sugar is added in some canned foods to help balance acidity, others might have more. Read the labels to be sure of ingredients and quantities.
Fresh will often taste best particularly if the product is in season. A peach out of season does not taste nice, sweet corn in season does. Fresh peas are generally expensive and shelling takes time. Frozen peas therefore make it to my freezer most of the time. To increase your vitamin and mineral intake mix and match, choose some of each.
To up your vegetable intake add to nice warm wintery meals such as soups, casseroles, curries and stews. One of my favourites is the slow cooker. I set it in the morning and come home to the glorious smells of lamb shanks with vegetables, a hearty vegetable soup or winter stew. As it gets dark early in winter when we get home we often, ‘want it now’. having the slow cooker may avoid the drive through on the way home or instant noodle option.
Salads can also be a way to eat your vegetables over winter. Salads you say? Try:
- Adding roasted vegetables from the roast the night before- roasted beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, mushrooms and capsicum (has more vitamin C than an orange and still retains some of it when cooked)
- To add some warmth to the salad for winter we need some carbs. How about some wholegrains such as freekah, quinoa, barley or brown rice?
- Add legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils for protein, carbs and fibre
The wholegrains along with vegetables provide fibre for your gut bacteria. This is a very important for winter wellness. Feeding gut bacteria to increase numbers of the good guys can help keep out unwanted pathogens. More of the good bacteria is like having a strong army. They line up in the gut and help keep the bad bacteria from entering the blood stream.
Fruit is also important and even though much less is in season we still have some delicious fruits to choose from. Pears and apples are still good after autumn crops. Kiwifruit, oranges, tangarines, mandarins are at their best. Nothing better than digging into a fresh winter orange with the sweet juice dripping down. Kiwifruit can be eaten with the skin for extra fibre and less waste. All of these fruits provide valuable vitamin C, some have vitamin A and folate too. These vitamins help the immune system to function optimally. Vitamin C can help reduce the severity and symptoms of colds, it can’t cure it. try for two fruit a day.
To increase your fruit intake:
- Fruit salad
- Fruit platter
- Adding it to breakfast cereal
- Poaching for dessert
- Adding to a cheese platter
- On top of pancakes, in muffins
In addition the immune system also needs protein for cell growth and maintenance. This can be from meat, legumes, fish, dairy, tofu, seeds, nuts. A combination of sources is beneficial for the range of other vitamins and minerals these foods provide also.
Not as thirsty? In winter we are in heated cars, houses and offices. These environments are dehydrating. If cold fluids are not appealing try:
- Warm water with lemon or herbal teas
- Warm milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Coffee and tea- have some diuretic effect but still overall hydrating- watch quantities for caffeine intake
- Drinking yoghurt
A lack of fluid can make you tired and sluggish and grabbing for a sugar fix. Have a glass of water first. It can leave you with dry skin too.
Keep up your variety of foods in winter. Reach for the fruit and vegetables and wholegrains too. Add in some protein and fluid and you will be well on the way to being well this winter!
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