Winter Wellness

How to keep your body toasty this winter
So the cooler temperatures are here, which is a restorative time for the body where it is essential to support a warm core temperature through the foods we eat and more importantly how we prepare them. It is through these practices that we aim to strengthen our immunity and vitality during a cooler climate and are able to ward off infections. We often associate winter as a dry season therefore adequate fluid intake and nourishing our cells with specific nutrients are essential in order to stay hydrated. 
Here are some helpful hints on avoiding the winter chill:
Eat slow cooked meals
Apart from being convenient and low cost, a slow cooker produces  meals with a sweet, tender quality that are easy to digest, making them ideal for times of sickness or to warm the soul on a cold wintery night. Try making your own baked beans, lentil dhal, pearl barley soup or lamb stews with plenty of colourful vegetables. The possibilities are endless and it means dinner is ready for when you walk in the door after work, as it has been slowly simmering and developing flavor all day.
Drink delicious herbal teas
Often as the humidity subsides, so does our thirst as our need for water diminishes due to lower fluid output. However, try replacing your glass of cool water with a hot cup of herbal tea as this maintains our metabolic fire, helping us stay warm as well as getting the benefits of various herbs and spices. Try chai tea which includes warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and fennel, they also help to support digestion. Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) tea is a fantastic immune tonifying herb used in India for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. Green tea is also a fantastic immune prophylactic due to the high level of flavonoids, always drink between meals to prevent any interference with mineral absorption.
You could try my amazing winter tonic tea which can be put in a flask and sipped on all day, not only is it a great antidote for colds and flus but it tastes good too!
-Lemon wedges (1-2)
- 1/4 tsp organic ground cinnamon
-Manuka honey (UMF 10+ or higher) to taste
-1/4 tsp minced garlic
-1/2 tsp freshly ground ginger
- tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional – very hot)
Squeeze lemon wedges and put into cup with garlic and ginger, pour boiling water over. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper, stir in manuka honey and let it brew for 3-5 minutes before drinking.
Chow down on soup
Perhaps the dish most associated with winter; soups are versatile, soothing, warming and nutritious and again not taxing on the digestive system like some raw food meals. This kind of meal is a great opportunity to add loads of colourful vegetables especially sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin which are high in betacarotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and essential for adequate immune defence, especially reducing chances of respiratory infection. Choose a nutritious, good quality stock base such as organic chicken or vegetable stock, home-made broth or miso soup. This is also a good opportunity to add various spices such as cumin, ground coriander and turmeric in pumpkin soup or nigella seeds, fennel and black pepper with clear vegetable soups. Spices are naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and are warming digestive tonics. Don’t forget to garnish with loads of fresh green herbs such as coriander, parsley, basil and thyme.  Slow-cooked whole chicken soup is a well known recipe prescribed for a common cold or flu, providing essential proteins in a delicious nutrient rich broth.  Check out the link to my Thai pumpkin soup recipe
Don’t forget your seasonings
It is common knowledge that too much salt can have adverse health effects such as high blood pressure, fluid retention and increased cardiovascular risk as well as altering calcium and potassium metabolism in the body. However, a good quality, mineral-rich and unrefined salt can be beneficial for good health when used sparingly. Hidden sodium is often consumed unnoticed in commonly consumed foods such as bread, pasta sauces, processed cereals and packaged foods, daily intake should never exceed 2000mg. Reducing these as much as possible reduces risk of sodium overconsumption while adding a small amount of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt to fresh, home-cooked meals can add a mineral boost to your meal. Himalayan salt is pink in colour as it is unrefined and how nature intended it with a vast array of trace minerals which still adds a salty flavor when added to a dish. Some other examples of flavor enhancers that can be added to winter dishes include miso paste, sea vegetables such as wakame and kombu (rich in iodine), olives, tamari, garlic and ginger. 
Freshly ground black pepper is a stimulating seasoning which encourages blood flow and warmth and increases digestive secretions. Piperine, the main essential oil found in fresh black peppercorns has been found to have antioxidant properties as well as increases the absorption of minerals from a meal. Therefore adding to any meal this winter improves your chances of a greater absorption of nutrients.  
Friendly oils and fats
Hydrating your body includes supporting your body tissues at a cellular level to improve structural integrity and fluidity of our cell membranes. This results in glowing skin as opposed to a dry, flaky reptilian-like complexion and can be achieved by adding quality cold-pressed oils into our diet. These include walnut, macadamia, flaxseed, almond, grapeseed and apricot kernel oils, drizzled over porridge or stews (once served – they are not appropriate as cooking oils). Externally, a cold-pressed nut oil can be massaged into the skin after showering to lock in the moisture and create soft, supple skin.

Okay so by now you get the gist of the foods and cooking methods that will optimize your winter experience. It is important to listen to what foods you are craving (I’m not talking about the cravings for fast food and sugar!) but rather the flavours and spices that interest you. Your body will thank you for it and you will feel more energized and ready to tackle the cold weather head on!