Fresh, healthy foods may be the best medicine
As we venture deeper into winter and brave the flu season, it’s incredibly important to armour up and protect our bodies as best as we can against viruses and infections. Particularly as we are still not out of the woods with COVID-19, this has never been more important. Rather than overload our system with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines, we can take preventative action by simply shopping mindfully when we go to the supermarket and selecting nourishing and immune boosting foods.
Shopping wisely for a nourishing pantry
Feeding your body high-quality fuel should be a number one priority at all times, but especially when at risk of infection. Nutritional Therapist Rebecca Breeds shares three top tips on how to plan your shopping list so you can stock your kitchen with nourishing, immune-boosting foods:
1. Know the clean 15 and dirty dozen list. This helps you know when to shop organic and when to save your pennies. Always wash fruit and veg anyway.
2. Build your menu / pantry around what is in season. Local, in-season food is not only better for your nutrient needs, but also beneficial for the environment and your local farmers.
3. Most of your shopping should be from the perimeter of the supermarket. If most of your food is in packets and boxes from the middle isles… is it really food?
Additionally, buying produce that tends to have a longer lifespan can save you from the horrible process of throwing a whole heap of untouched food in the bin at the end of the week. “A vitamin C packed whole pumpkin can last months waiting for you to blend it into a soup!” says Rebecca. “I also keep a few tins of bone-in sardines in the pantry just in case. They last ages and are packed with anti-inflammatory, immune boosting omega-3s and calcium.”
Nutritious winter snacks and meals
Soups and stews
When it’s chilly outside, it can be oh-so tempting to curl up with a warm plate of your favourite comfort food (pasta or pizza, anyone?). These foods are great to enjoy in moderation, but it’s important to make sure you are incorporating a variety of vegetables into your diet as well. If you’re scratching your head as to how you can make a delicious meal out of a bunch of veggies, Rebecca has the answer: soups and stews.
“This time of year, you just can’t go past big batch soups and stews,” says Rebecca. “Not only are winter veg perfect for slow cooking and packed with vitamin C, but they can also be paired with chicken or beef stock for a powerful dose of amino acids, B Vitamins, fat soluble vitamins A, D, K, E, glycine and glutamine (the master antioxidant). This combo is fire for your immune system, incredibly nourishing and so dang tasty!”
Salads are the staple go-to healthy meal. You really can’t go wrong in terms of nutrition, but they can be awfully bland if you don’t get the right balance of flavours. Rather than rely on artificial salad dressings from the shelf, Rebecca reaches for olive oil for some extra flavour and additional nutrients.
“I’m a massive olive oil nerd. I stumbled upon an olive oil tasting in San Diego and fell in love. I had no idea how much they can vary in flavour and quality. Not to mention they are full of antioxidant vitamin E and anti-inflammatory healthy fats. I keep my best EVOO to use raw in salads and dressings. It’s great on its own but also enhances whatever you usually mix it with as a dressing. Note: always keep olive oil in a dark cool cupboard and cook with it for low heat cooking only to avoid the fats going rancid.”
To tide you over, a handful of nuts should do the trick and provide a dose of healthy fats. To reap maximum benefits, try storing them in the freezer. “It slows the natural oils going rancid with heat and oxygen exposure. Nuts that are off or ‘rancid’ are highly inflammatory and ‘load’ the body’s detoxification pathways, compromising immunity.”
Plus, a simple tonic that Rebecca recommends to drink is an antioxidant-rich green tea. “I have a coconut green tea for my afternoon pep – now I crave it!”
Pantry staples for the cooler months
Another must-have in Rebecca’s fridge to keep herself strong and healthy is a jar of high quality fish oil tablets. “Fish oil is full of anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s, supporting immunity, detoxification pathways, skin, hair and even mental health. I use the Nordic Naturals lemon flavour which is paired with Vitamin D3. D3 further helps support immunity, cognition and bone health through the winter months when we all see a little less sun.”
Staying well from within
To capitalise on all of the wonderful nutrients you’re feeding your body and to help your body utilise them as best as possible, it’s also important to mentally manage stress levels. “Knowing how to bring yourself back from ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous system) to ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic nervous system) is free and something you can always have on hand,” says Rebecca. “Stress and inflammation tax the immune system and burn through your vitamin C stores, leaving you more vulnerable. ‘Rest and digest’ mode allows your body to heal and bolster its defences. A simple few deep breaths can reset your body from stress mode back to rest mode.” Rebecca suggests to learn your triggers and invest in stress management techniques that work for you.
Rebecca Breeds is an author, actress and nutritional therapist whose life in front of the cameras, coupled with various health conditions, helped spark her interest and passion for nutrition. You can follow Rebecca on Instagram @RebeccaEBreeds and Twitter @BecEBreeds.
Want to read more? Click here to read our article with Rebecca on probiotics and the deeper health benefits they can provide aside from gut health.