Eat well, stay well

Eating properly during the winter months is key to staying healthy when temperatures drop. The suggestions below will help you boost your immune system, stave off colds and flu and generally help you beat those winter blues.

  • water - we tend to drink less in winter than we do in summer but it’s still vitally important to keep hydrated whatever the time of year. Keeping your body and brain hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Two thirds of the body is made of water so make sure you have a regular intake.  Aim to drink between 1.6 and 2 litres per day – that’s around eight large glasses.
  • fish - when the hours of sunlight are limited during the winter months, the body can struggle to produce enough Vitamin D. One way to make sure you are getting this vital vitamin is to increase your intake of fish. Vitamin D can help relive mood disorders because it increases the amount of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for the ‘feel good factor.’ Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fats which help to reduce inflammation and can protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
  • eggs - are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are natural mood-lifters and can help alleviate depression. They are also full of phospholipids, which allow nutrients to pass into the brain more effectively, helping to keep your memory and brain function sharp. For the elderly, babies and children, make sure eggs are cooked properly.
  • broccoli - along with other green vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and sprouts, is a great source of Vitamin C – invaluable for its immunity-boosting superpowers. It is high in antioxidants and can increase energy levels which can dip during the colder months.
  • fruit - good selections to include in your winter fruit bowl are citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit which all contain Vitamin C and which can help prevent against coughs and colds. Bananas also have immune-boosting properties, and dark fruits such as cherries, black and red grapes, blackcurrants and blueberries are good to include in your diet as they are rich in anti-oxidants.
  • spices - adding spices to your meals not only adds flavour to the dishes that you cook, but it’s also an invaluable way of giving your immune system a boost in order to fight off winter sniffles. Spices to include are ginger, cumin, oregano, chilli and cayenne. Taken at the onset of a cold, they can even help to reduce the symptoms.
  • oats and barley - these invaluable grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fibre which has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. When animals eat this compound, they are less likely to contract influenza. It also helps with speeding up wound healing and can help antibiotics to work more efficiently. Try to include at least one serving of these grains in your daily diet.
  • garlic - this potent relative of the onion family contains the active ingredient allicin, which can help fight infection and bacteria. Research has shown it can be helpful in fighting off colds and studies. The best dose is two raw cloves a day. Try adding crushed garlic to your cooking several times a week.
  • tea - both black tea and green tea – is good for boosting the immune system because it contains the amino acid, L-theanine, which can help to protect against viruses.
  • sweet potatoes - you may not think of skin as part of your immune system but this crucial organ, covering an average of 16 square feet, serves as your first line of defence against bacteria and viruses. And to stay healthy, your skin needs Vitamin A. One of the best ways to get Vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta carotene, such as sweet potatoes. Think orange when looking for other beta carotene foods, such as squash, pumpkin and of course carrots.

Further information

You can find more information and food and your diet, including how to eat well, on the NHS Choices website.

Food poisoning

Over the winter months, the risk of food poisoning can be increased – especially during Christmas and New Year we eat lots of rich food, go to parties and eat out more.

Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food. In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria such as salmonella or E. Coli, or a virus such as norovirus.

Most people with food poisoning recover at home and do not need any specific treatment, although there are some situations where you should see your GP for advice.

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