The wisdom “let food be thy medicine” dates back almost 3000 years, and the importance of this statement is no less important now than it was then. Food has the ability to help support us through these times when common winter illnesses such as colds and flus, sniffles, coughs, chapped skin and the winter blues abound for too many.
While there are many over-the-counter medications that try to band-aid these conditions, there are many more food-based options available to help strengthen the body. These can help treat the basis of the problem rather than just the symptoms. Preserving and improving your nutritional status is vital for a strong immune system. It is the best defence against winter illnesses. Eating food that is rich in nutrients is the best way to do this. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient when it comes to an immune system that is firing on all cylinders. Vitamin C is used by the body to signal the production of white blood cells to protect us when foreign bacteria or viruses enter the body. It is also present in the fluid lining in our lungs and mucous membranes, where the antioxidant activity helps prevent inflammation and damage by bacteria and viruses. It is also crucial for collagen production in the skin, something we also want to support over the winter months.
BOOST YOUR VITAMIN C
Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so we need to consume it every day. Eat a piece of fruit or add lemon, orange or grapefruit to your morning juice. Incorporate leafy greens and broccoli into stir fries to help boost your daily intake of vitamin C. Heat and light and the length of time from a food being harvested decreases vitamin C, so grab what you can from your local farmers’ market. Supplementing vitamin C can also be highly beneficial. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone health, immunity, cancer prevention and mood regulation. Its role in bone health is to support the uptake of calcium and phosphate, which are bone-strengthening minerals. Over the winter months we often find ourselves wrapped up warm with less exposure to the sun, except for our hands and faces. As the sun’s action on the cholesterol in our skin is our major source of vitamin D it is important to spend a little time each day exposed to the sun and to increase our food sources of vitamin D. These include some oily fish, organic butter and eggs (the vitamin D is found in the yolks).
Zinc is a superstar nutrient when it comes to immunity. This mineral is critical for a large number of processes in the body including wound healing, sex hormone balance, appetite, appropriate immune responses, and great digestion, just to name a few. Too many people today don’t consume adequate dietary zinc while others consume a diet that is too high in substances that interfere with the absorption of this vital mineral. Poor zinc status can lead to poor blood glucose management, sugar cravings, loss of appetite, poor resistance to infection and lowered fertility. Oysters, beef and lamb are good sources of zinc. In the plant family, seeds contain zinc however a much smaller amount is present. If you take a zinc supplement, it is best taken before bed to support great absorption. Your grandma was right about chicken soup. Bone broths contain calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and amino acids, all nutrients that support adrenal health, the nervous system, bones, teeth and nails, as well as the immune system.
They are budget friendly and are a nourishing way to support people who feel depleted in nutrients or energy. Try making a broth from organic, grass-fed beef or lamb, or organic chicken bones with root vegetables and herbs and spices. Use the broth as a base for a vegetable soup or drink it on its own.