Despite the sunny weather us Cantabrians have had this last week, we can no longer deny that winter is most certainally on its way. As winter approaches it is especially important to get into the habit of looking after your health. As we all know it is only too easy to let those healthy habits slip and with the increased challenge to our immune systems in winter it becomes even more important to keep up with them – even as it becomes harder to do so.
So, what can we do to keep the dreaded lurgies at bay?
The same old thing we hear everywhere and every year and yet somehow just don’t quite manage to keep up with. These can be summarised to just three key points:
As it gets cold and dark we tend to get more easily tired and look for those comfort foods: Biscuits, cakes, chips, takeaways, starchy greasy food…. Unfortunately these are not foods that help you to stay feeling well. And the more you eat of them the more you want to eat of them as your body craves the nutrientsthat are lacking from your diet.
It is better by far to increase and maintain your levels of healthy fresh foods, keeping you feeling good and breaking the cycle of craving. Fresh fruit and veg have been repeatedly shown to provide your body with what it needs, as well as keeping energy levels up and contributing to a well-functioning immune system.
George Mateljan in America has done extensive research into what he calls the World’s Healthiest Foods. He has written a number of books as well as formed his own foundation in the promotion of eating well. Go to his website at http://www.whfoods.com/ for an easy to follow database of healthy ingredients with nutritional information, cooking articles; and quick,easy and healthy recipes and cooking methods.
You may also like to try adding the following to your daily routine:
A hot ginger drink
Ginger has been used for centuries in herbal and Aryuvedic medicine. It has stimulatory properties and will help to warm you up on cold days. It is also good to improve digestion, and to improve circulation bringing more oxygen and nutrients to tissues. For a delicious pick-me-up chop or grate fresh ginger into a cup of boiling water – you can even add lemon or honey according to taste.
Garlic contains many sulphur compounds which are believed to be largely responsible for its health-promoting qualities. Garlic is traditionally used as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. It is generally recommended to eat garlic raw. For those who can’t stomach this, cook with it. Adding it towards the end of cooking will have the least impact on nutrients; or simply take a garlic supplement like our KNH Odourless Garlic and Vitamin C. These are available in a specially deodorised form, that have become industry standard, removing the odour while maintaining the nutrient benefits.
Long heralded as immune supporting and a well-known antioxidant. Vitamin C has been reported to reduce both the duration and severity of colds and a plethora of research details its many qualities. It is commonly recommended to take at least 500mg of vitamin C a day with some increasing their dose up to 2g a day or even higher when coming down with a cold. It is best to divide your daily dose of vitamin C, taking it throughout the day to maximize absorption. Try our KNH Chewable Vitamin C, suitable for the whole family.
2. Exercise (…groan…)
Cuddle up on the sofa with a warm duvet and a good book or film…. or go outside and get your heart rate going? For most of us the choice is really simple – duvet wins hands down. It is, however, important to keep exercising even through winter. Again, the benefits to be gained from regular exercise have been constantly and closely examined. During winter when it’s raining/snowing/sleeting/dark or just plain cold it is really difficult to convince yourself of this.
I think the most important motto here is small steps are better than no steps. It is very easy to get into a negative cycle of no exercise – makes you feel lazy – makes you feel less like doing any exercise – so you stop exercising. An American study suggests that simply taking 100 steps per minute (a brisk walk) may be considered as the rate for moderate exercise. The lead author recommends bouts of 1000 steps per 10 minutes as a useful starting point – working up to 3000 steps in 30 minutes as a daily average.
Sleep is the time during which your body gets to shut down and regenerate. For children most growth takes place during sleep and for the rest of us it is a time when the body can take time out to replace damaged cells. It is now thought that sleep patterns are very important, as our sleep happens in cycles and to achieve optimum rest we should co-ordinate our sleeping time with our own cycles. You may have noticed that on some days you simply cannot wake up even though you went to bed at a similar time or even earlier than you usually do. This has been attributed to interrupting these cycles – you will feel less refreshed if you wake up halfway through a cycle than at its completion.
It is also important to get a good quality of sleep – and it is considered that the best quality of sleep is achieved before midnight, accounting for the fact that you can feel more tired with the same amount of sleep if you go to bed after midnightthan you would going to bed earlier.
So: eat well, sleep well and walk your way to better health this winter.