Keeping your nutritional status preserved plays an essential part in mounting your best defence against Winter ailments, being able to spring into Spring with a giant leap of excitement, getting the body ready for the sunshine come Summer time and cosying up to Autumn as the nights get shorter. Mother Earth has a clever way of providing us with what we need most at each time of the year.
The quality of your life depends on the quality of your rituals so we need great rituals and find rituals that serve us all year long or get experimental with the seasons as our food chain changes and the weather goes through its natural cycles!
Working out which breakfasts make you feel great all morning long, practicing the forms of exercises that you love doing that get your body moving and loving life, deciding which relationships in your world make you feel loved and cherished and which ones don’t serve you, all of these factors play a huge role in your emotional, nutritional and physical health.
Just going by the colour of fruits and vegetables at this time of year, their deep greens, dark yellows and brilliant oranges tell us that they are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals. The more colourful the fruit, the better it is for your health.
Sweet potatoes //
Despite its name, the sweet potato is not related to the potato. Potatoes are classified as tubers, while the sweet potato is a storage root. Compared to regular potatoes, sweet potatoes have a lot more vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C and even more fibre. This fibre content means that sweet potatoes are excellent for your digestion.
Sweet potatoes are composed mainly of starch, which is very easy to break down and is soothing for the stomach and intestines too. This makes them an ideal healing choice for those suffering from the pain and inflammation associated with stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. The roughage of sweet potatoes even prevents constipation. What a root!
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans contain high amounts of manganese, magnesium, copper, fiber, protein, iron, and zinc. They are one of the more popular bean varieties used in most bean dips, most famously, hummus [my absolute favourite]! Chickpeas contain antioxidants; phytonutrients such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Their flaky texture makes them great for faux meat salad dishes like a chickpea salad, when cooked low and slow in a hearty stew, teamed up with roasted squash or roasted with some spices on for a crispy snack.
During the winter months, rituals can fall away as we go into hibernation mode. If it’s blowing a gale, pitch black outside or pelting it down with rain, getting outside and exercising or tucking into a leafy salad suddenly isn’t so appealing. Instead, spend the time exploring new recipes in the kitchen, read some of the books on your bookshelf that you’ve been meaning to tuck into, enjoy warm baths filled with relaxing oils and some candles. If the weather permits outdoor activities, wrap up warm and go for a walk in an outdoor space with a friend or by yourself or try going for a cycle ride to explore a new place.
If it’s pelting it down with rain, stick on a pilates Youtube video, head to an indoor warm yoga class or get a rebounder and bounce to some of your favourite tunes on your Spotify playlist whilst the weather outside does its thing! Whatever is restorative and makes you feel good, do more of it.
The more stressed we feel and the more burdened our nervous and immune systems become, the more likely we are to be susceptible to winter infections and coughs and colds so winter is the time to slow down the pace and enjoy some ‘me time’.
As the temperatures go down, you may notice your desire for warming foods increase. Soups, casseroles and broths are all simple and inexpensive ways to top up those nutrient banks and to supercharge them, use an organic bone broth as the base.
Bone broth //
Bone broths are particularly nourishing for people with food sensitivities or digestive disorders because they are usually very well tolerated and they offer essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and many other trace minerals. When you’re feeling like you’ve got aches and pains which tend to come on as the weather gets cooler, dose up on bone broth as it also contains elements of the broken down material from cartilage and tendons such as chondroitin sulphates and glycosamines (GAGs), which are often taken in supplement form to promote joint health.
Dark chocolate //
Getting cosy on the sofa with a cup of tea in hand and some candles lit and enjoying a couple of squares of dark chocolate may have particularly soul-nourishing qualities. Good quality dark chocolate (70% + cocoa) is a good source of tryptophan, the amino-acid precursor of both serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is the hormone responsible for feeling happy, calm and content and of course melatonin is responsible for sleep. These are the precise sensations you want to be feeling more of, especially if you’re experiencing of a bit of winter blues. Foods that are naturally high in tryptophan include fish, other seafood, nuts, seeds, vegetables such as broccoli and legumes.
If you survived the winter without a cold, Spring is the second most frequent time to come down with an illness. Colds, flus, sniffles, coughs and chapped skin abound for too many.
Coconut oil //
Keeping a little pot of coconut oil in your makeup bag to keep your lips moisturized and take your eye make up off to re-touch up without any chemicals can be so handy. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which is a fatty acid known to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungi properties which is why it’s especially ideal to get this ingredient in this time of year as colds do the rounds.
Adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your breakfast smoothie or roasting some vegetables with coconut oil and dried rosemary are to simple and delicious ways to welcome more coconut oil into your life.
Brazil nuts //
These are a superb source of the antioxidant selenium, which helps increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in the body, as well as protect against cellular damage. For skin care, selenium’s antioxidant properties regenerate vitamins E and C, thereby decreasing the ageing of skin. A truly amazing nut!
Whizzing brazil nuts up with fresh basil, lemon juice and parmesan and combining it with courgette pasta is a delicious way of getting brazil nuts into the body. Alternatively, blend it up and make nutella balls, nut milk or enjoy them by themselves with some fruit for a snack.
Honey or bee derived products //
Honey and bee derived products have been used for centuries in common Ayurveda medicine for treating sore throats, colds, and wound healing (although these have not been studied with solid evidence).
Spring time causes hay fever-like reactions for a lot of people and in a positive study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research in April 2009, scientists found that the number of mast cells activated was reduced in a dose dependent manner. Mast cells are responsible for the production and release of histamine when you come into contact with an allergen. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response you know as sneezing, itching, a runny nose and coughing. Hence the term anti-histamine when it comes to allergy drugs. Reducing the amount of histamine being produced is VERY good for allergy sufferers and this study supports bee pollen’s ability to do this.
Honey contains carbohydrates, anti-microbial properties (i.e. microorganisms don’t grow as easily on honey due to the low water content), antioxidants, vitamin C, B vitamins, and zinc but not all honey is created equal. There is a lot of processing that can go on in honey manufacturing so a grading system has been created to assure quality and purity for the consumer; it’s known as the Unique Manuka Factor.
- 0-4 Not detectable
- 5-9 Low levels
- 10-15 Useful levels
- 16+ Superior high grade levels
There are many varieties of honey due to the variance in bee harvesting, location, and type of flower the bees are collecting the nectar from but it’s a great ingredient to add a touch of sweetness in hot tea, desserts, salad dressings, oatmeal, porridges, etc.
Summer often comes with sunshine and it’s the time when we minimise our clothing to expose our skin to the sun’s rays to get our vitamin D quota in. Often clients come to me around this time of year and their goal is weight loss. My approach is always the same and it is health first, with a side effect of weight loss. When the body’s hormones, appetite and nutrient levels are in check, only then can weight loss happen so Summer time is a time to focus on nutrients and more nutrients, and weight loss will happen where weight loss is due.
Brassica vegetables //
Broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are totally worthy of their superstar accolades for so many reasons. They are potent sources of antioxidants, as well as many vitamins and minerals which help with cellular repair. The easiest way to get them into your eating regime in the Summer is to juice them, blend them into your smoothies or opt for salads with a spinach base rather than lettuce.
This family of vegetables also contain indoles, substances that help the liver detoxify hormones, which can help with sex hormone balance, which is critical for clear skin.
For those with a sweet tooth, a regular intake of ‘bitter’ greens can help curb sugar cravings and reset your taste buds so try and increase your greens and notice your sweet cravings beginning to disappear.
Berries are rich in potassium, water-soluble fibres, and flavanoids, yet low in calories. When researchers at Tufts University analysed over 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability, blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals.
They are an excellent food source for those who have a sweet tooth and are attempting to improve their quality of nutrition without increasing the calorie content of their diet as they are full of pure water and fibre. Keeping them in the freezer for your morning smoothies or blending them from frozen with some yoghurt for a DIY ice cream are two delicious ways to invite these berries into your summer days.
A good source of vitamin B1 and monounsaturated fats, avocados help to prevent dry skin and brittle hair and nails; when applied topically as a face mask, they help to hydrate dry skin so as a post-sunshine skin mask they’re perfect.
Our outer beauty and glow is a reflection of the environment going on in our internal world so avocados are one of my special foods to ensure when the Summer days arrive and you want to be more makeup free, your skin looks healthy just as it is, without the need for cover up.
The main take home is to find the right balance for you that allows you to enjoy all four seasons and have your health in a positive place at the end of the year.
Hope these tips help you 🙂