Brrrr… It’s that time of year again! With the warmth of summer now in the distant past, it’s time to give our bodies a little extra support.
With the coldness of winter numbing our toes, giving in to food and ‘beverage products’ that are high in sugar and fat can be tempting. With stats to back it up, it seems that we – as a nation – are suckers for a treat with the average Brit investing a cracking 9000kcal more on food on the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas! Believe it or not, it is possible to avoid these high calorie options; and in doing so you can help to manage over-indulgence along with the cravings which percuss a sugar-high in the long-run. Here are some tips to help endure this seasonal shift.
First and foremost, try to prepare your meals yourself. This allows you to be in control of what you are eating without the hidden nasties and exceedance of calories in pre-prepared options. I understand that with a busy lifestyle, pre-preparing meals can be knocked to the end of your priorities list; however, making the time to prepare at least 1 meal per day is useful to prevent an over-indulgence in sugary treats to satisfy that after-noon energy slump. To keep your metabolism running steadily and to provide you with a kick-start to the day that lies ahead, you should always make time for a whole-some breakfast…and by whole-some I am excluding the likes of sugary breakfast bars… sorry! I have recently developed a healthy (and exceedingly tasty) activated chia/flaxseed pud’ topped with frozen-berries, mixed spice and gojis which can be made the evening before and even eaten on the go the following morning… so there’s no excuse, really!
Meal preparation will also better allow you to adopt a ‘rainbow diet’. Not only is this a general rule of thumb when creating a healthy, balanced diet, but it increases the likelihood of consuming foods high in vitamins, particularly vitamins C, D and A which are cardinal micronutrients required by the immune system to stay in tip-top condition. Increasing consumption of foods which are high in protein (fish, lentils, tofu, chick-peas) and fibre help to maintain glycaemic control, reducing your cravings for sugar too.
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin involved in the synthesis of collagen, neurotransmitters and carnitine. It is also an enzyme co-factor and also increases the gastrointestinal absorption of non-haem iron. Most importantly at this time of year, vitamin C is required for the activation of macrophages – a kind of B-cell involved in mediation of the adaptive immune system. Without the ability to synthesise vitamin C endogenously, we require a constant supply of vitamin C to stay healthy. Vitamin C is an abundant micronutrient found in many fruit and vegetables, however it is easily oxidised from vegetables during cooking, making it difficult to meet our recommended intake within the diet alone., let alone reach optimal levels.
Supplementation of Vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid is ideal over the winter. The effects of vitamin C supplementation at 1250mg were seen to produce a mean peak plasma vitamin C concentration two times higher than if 200–300 mg/day ascorbic acid was consumed from vitamin C-rich foods in one study. At a dose of 1000mg (available in store) you can maintain a healthy immune system and prevent becoming host to any nasty infections. Along with activating our cellular army, vitamin C is required for the cross-linkage of collagen which prevents the spread of a pathogen form one tissue site to another. If you’re not one for taking tablets, vitamin C can be found in a powder or effervescent form which is dissolved in water.
- Getting Vitamin D during the dead of winter can be difficult due to a dwindled supply of intense sunshine and layering of clothing. Vitamin D is most commonly known for its role in calcium homeostasis, osteoclast formation and bone health, however more recently the extent of its role as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ has been found to contribute to many more psychological and physiological processes, including the normal functioning of the immune system. Evidence suggests that vitamin D is involved in the modulation of both innate immunity (immunity we are already born with) and adaptive immunity. One recent well-designed double-blind placebo study using a nasopharyngeal swab culture showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant 42% decrease in the incidence of influenza infection. In another 2011 study, researchers found that for each 4 nanogram/ml increase in vitamin D levels in the body, there was a 7% lower chance of developing influenza in a large cross-sectional cohort of (6789) British people.
The Inadequate levels of vitamin D in ∼70% of the population suggests that hypovitaminosis could also be contributing to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin is synthesised from tryptophan by tryptophan hydroxylase-2, which is transcriptionally activated by vitamin D hormone. With this evidence under our belts, there is no doubt a seasonal pattern exists with a lack of vitamin D and incidence of influenza and so we should be sure to supplement active vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) during the winter flu season to maintain our immune status and psychological well-being.
Our best-value and best-selling vitamin D is the Lamberts Vitamin D at 4000iu (equivalent to 100 mcg) at £10.95 for a 3-month supply. As a fat-soluble vitamin, it should be taken at meal time to increase the rate of absorption. The Better You DLUX vitamin D spray (3000iu) can be easily administered under the tongue in children and adults as an alternative method of supplementation.
- Along with vitamins E and C, Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant – again required to neutralise free radicals. Vitamin A is also immune-protective due to its involvement in the formation of mucus membranes in the nose, mouth, throat and lungs. As some of the first areas to come into contact with any foreign pathogen, it is important to keep these membranes healthy. Good sources of vitamin A include: carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, eggs, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, squashes and red and yellow peppers
- Zinc is an important and useful nutrient over the winter. Every multivitamin contains Zinc but if you fall foul of a bug then Zinc lozenges to suck behave in a different way. Sucking Zinc when you are ill boosts the immune system very quickly and authoritative analysis shows that it can reduce the length of a cold by 50%.
Herbal Remedies and Natural Immune Therapies
The anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal characteristics of garlic have been recognized for centuries. First reported by Cavallito and Bailey in 1944, allicin is the key ingredient responsible for the broad-spectrum of anti-bacterial activity in garlic. Although garlic in its food-form contains allicin, it must first be broken down from alliin for the body to access the metabolically active allicin. Unfortunately, this breakdown into allicin can release a potent odour through our pores and breath. To avoid being refused your kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas, pop in for some AllicinMax – a garlic supplement consisting of only metabolically active allicin. This supplement is great for preventing a myriad of microbial infestations, and dosage can be increased to address the very first signs of imbalance to your wellbeing.
- Echinacea is also a popular herbal remedy for colds and flu. We only recommend the Vogel Echinaforce as it is fresh and contains the whole plant. Studies show that 90% of the anti-viral components of Echinacea are in the leaves and stalks whereas many cheaper products are made with dried Echinacea root grown by a third party. Research from the past couple of years also shows that Echinacea also helps restore the damage done to the linings of the respiratory tract by an infection which means that you are better placed to fight off the next bug that comes along.
‘It’s beginning to look a Lot like Cocktails…’
Although put quite delightfully in Cliff Richards lyric: “Christmas time, mistletoe and wine”, [seriously thought about deleting Karly’s Cliff quote but hey… Ed.] the seasonal persuasion to drink more is often abided-to rather than not. Alcohol intake in Scotland is now considered a major public health concern with excessive consumption causing irreversible damage to parts of the body such as the liver, brain and gut microbiome. Not only does it promote an overall nutritional deficiency, alcohol deprives the body of valuable immune- boosting nutrients which can suppress the ability of the white blood cells to multiply and lessen the ability of macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factors (cytokines involved in cell destruction). Damage to the immune system increases in proportion to the quantity of alcohol consumed and it is thought that the amount of alcohol consumed to cause intoxication are also enough to suppress immunity.
If you do have two or three social engagements a week in December, limit your drinking to just those evenings and give your liver 4-5 days off a week so it can return to normal. Consuming 30-40 drops of Milk Thistle complex prior to these merry indulgences can also help to neutralise, detoxify and protect your body against the nasty free radical exposure which occurs during alcohol and fat metabolism. Thanks to the active compound known as silymarin, Milk thistle can fortify the liver and increase the efficiency of detoxification by ~30%, promoting regeneration of healthy hepatic cells and preventing the depletion of glutathione which is essential to the detoxifying process. Note: I’m not advocating binge-drinking here just introducing the concept of mindful thinking!
- As most of you will know, alcohol is also a diuretic so it is critical to keep yourself hydrated in between drinks. Drinking a glass of water – or preferably coconut water won’t go a miss and you’ll thank yourself for it the next day. Coconut water is a sweet, perfectly balanced cocktail of electrolytes simply made for rehydrating us!
Why not try a Christmas coconut water mojito mocktail?
o ½ lime, cut into three wedges
o 2 springs fresh mint
o ½tsp unrefined sugar
o 2 cubes ice
o 100ml coconut water
o 100ml sparkling water
Although December can be a difficult month, taking the time to consider which foods to eat along with the supplements we can take, we can help our bodies fight back the antagonising effects of the bugs we are exposed to. Whatever you do, have a very merry and healthy Christmas from all of us at Hanover Healthfoods. Please call in soon! 🙂