Think of winter food and your mind conjures up images of thick vegetable soups, and steaming stews. And surprise, surprise these are exactly the type of food you should be eating at this time of year.
When the days are colder you need more warmth from your food and this is provided by these types of meals where everything is cooked in one pan so no nutrients are lost and warming spices are added to increase the metabolic rate and send heat round the body.
Now in these days of air conditioning and central heating and travelling by car from door we may need this less than in the past but the principles are the same. This is also not an excuse to throw all your summer healthy eating out of the window just because it's cold outside. The same principles apply but just adapted to take advantage of all the seasonal vegetables available.Good Winter Foods
Vegetables which are fantastic winter foods include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Pumpkin (always go for the orange varieties of both of these vegetables)
All of these are high in Vitamins A and C which will help build the immune system and ward off illness. Garlic is another good vegetable to eat at this time of year as it has proven anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and could just help you stave off that cold.
For warming grains go for:
Other grains are more cooling so if you are making or buying bread try not to make it the staple of your winter meals.
Other good ingredients include:
- Adzuki (or aduki)
- Black beans
Really any pulse will do. They have been called the "perfect health food" Low in fat, high in protein and complex carbohydrate and fibre, they also contain a range of vitamins and minerals and are low on the Glyceamic index, what more could you ask? They will add a welcome bulk to any soup, stew or vegetable side dish and are an excellent source of protein and Vitamin B for vegetarians and vegans. If you want to avoid some of the side effects of these high fibre foods cook them with fennel or cumin and make sure you follow the preparation instructions regarding soaking if they are dried.
It goes without saying that you should choose foods from good sources and organic when ever possible. Traces of chemicals found in non-organic foods often cannot be removed simply by washing and over time can build up in your body tissues to unacceptable levels.Other system boosts
You may find that you are feeling a little down as the nights draw in. Do try to get outside, especially in the mornings as the sun comes up. Natural light will help your pineal gland to switch off it's night- time melatonin production and act like a natural caffeine boost. Artificial light is not full frequency light and as such is not as powerful as sunlight at switching off the Pineal and this why you might feel more sleepy in the winter time.
If you are still not feeling 100% you might want to try a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. Try to buy the best quality you can and make sure it is in the best form for your body to assimilate it. Generally fat soluble vitamins (ADE) are better in capsules and water soluble (BC) in tablets. And make sure you get a good cross section of minerals to help with this too.
Just because it is cold and you might feel more inclined toward hot drinks, don't forget your body still needs at least 1.5 litres of water a day. If you find it too cold to drink chilled water, leave it to stand and drink it at room temperature. It is more rehydrating that way anyway as the body doesn't have to expand energy heating it to body temperature. Or if you want a heated drink try a herbal tea instead of regular tea or coffee.Things to avoid
Try to avoid eating too much dairy produce. In general these are mucous forming and won't help if you are prone to colds or chesty coughs.
You can still get good quantities of calcium from:
- Dark green vegetables (such as Kale, and Broccoli, the Purple variety in particular or by sprinkling some poppy seeds on your food)
Eat simple combinations. It may be tempting to stick as many things as you can into a stew but you are making it hard for your body to digest them all. It does give you chance to appreciate the flavours too.
Try to reduce your refined salt and caffeine intake. (If you must have salt try to find whole natural sea salt which is slightly grey.) This is good advice at any time of the year and even more so during the winter when your lymphatic, immune systems and Liver are busy trying to keep you healthy.
Following on from the last point try to avoid chemically altered or highly refined foods. These will have almost none of the nutrients that fresh foods have and could actually be more difficult for your body to deal with.
Try to avoid alcohol. It's no accident that the word to describe feeling drunk is intoxicated! If you are eating well to build your immune system you risk undoing all your good work if you overindulge at the bar.
By Jane Regan MGPP, ITEC, LCIC, MIIR
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