STAPLES TO SOOTHE THE WINTER SNIFFLES & BLUES
“How our body handles stress and lethargy is, to a great extent, a result of the foods we choose to nourish our cells, tissues, and our organs with. Simple changes to food choices can have a huge impact on both our physical and mental health”
A reality of winter in Ireland is that we wake up to a dark sky and return home in the dark evenings, and this can have a heavy effect on our mood, motivation, energy levels and even cognitive function – in particular for people who work indoors all day 5 days a week. Remember, our bodies are working harder in these months to keep us warm, to fend off the illnesses that increase/are passed around at this time, and to adjust to the decrease in natural light – which is often linked to mood and energy changes.
With this in mind, in the winter months, I ‘up-shift’ my foods in the same way that I swap out my summer wardrobe for winter – to prepare for the more ‘hardy’ months ahead.
I’ll walk you through my own winter routine in this blog, and hopefully you can find inspiration to upshift and incorporate your own winter routine!
It’s natural to seek out more ‘stodgy’ foods as the cold weather rolls around, with lighter food like salads not seeming quite as appetising or satisfying. This makes sense on a number of levels – for thousands of years, cravings for richer, more calorie-dense, foods kept us alive through some harsh winters when food could become scarce on our lovely island. However, when we are feeling under the weather or trying to fight off a potential cold, the below tips can help give your body the energy and nourishment it needs to keep you nourished and healthy:
Seasonal Foods I'll Be Incorporating Into The Weekly Shop To Support My Immune System
As temperatures drop, our bodies work extra hard to stay warm, in order to continue to function efficiently and support our immune system. Traditionally, certain foods are more supportive for particular seasons. To help guide you with your meal plans, I’ve listed some of my favourite nourishing foods for warming up your body in winter. You’ll notice they are mostly fibrous and filling plant-based foods, and this is key, because they slow the process of digestion, keeping you sated for longer, helping to support stable blood sugar levels and can help encourage steady energy levels.
“One of the pillars of the practice of Nutritional Therapy is: “Food First, Then Supplementation”. Eating nourishing foods helps to improve our overall digestion and play a very significant role in our immune health. Most experts agree that around 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. Eating fermented foods and fibrous foods help to increase and support your beneficial gut flora, allowing your immune system to work more effectively!”
So, let’s talk staples to add to your trolley:
These fantastic fungi contain ‘beta glucans’ which help fight infection.
• Cruciferous Vegetables:
Broccoli and cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts are examples of the cruciferous veg family. Full of fibre to feed your friendly gut bacteria, they also lend support to the immune system. Filling and satisfying, and full of yummy fibre for your gut.
This tasty all-rounder contains antiviral properties, thanks to its active agent, allicin. If you are feeling brave (or just love the taste of garlic!), you can maximise its natural benefits by chopping/crushing and leaving for 8-10 mins and eating raw – maybe in a little extra virgin olive oil on sourdough bread. Your immune system will thank you! To counteract the dreaded ‘garlic breath’, chew on some gut-loving and nutritious foods like apples, spinach and mint.
• Peppers & Ginger:
Support thermoregulation – this means helping your body maintain a stable, physiological temperature.
• Vitamin Rich Fruits:
Berries, lemons, limes, oranges, kiwis.
• Carrots, Celery, and Onion:
These vegetables have an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support our immune system – helping to protect us from pathogens and helping the body recover from illness more quickly.
• Pro and Prebiotic Foods:
I love to eat fermented and fibrous foods to ensure my ‘good bacteria’ are set for the winter to help support my digestion and Immunity. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, full fat yoghurt, Kefir and raw apple cider vinegar are just some fermented foods which are a natural way of adding good bacteria to the diet. When it comes to health, I always advise people to: ‘start with probiotic and prebiotic foods’.
“Prebiotics are fertilizer or food for your own micro-organisms This is why it’s also so important to keep up – or increase – your veg and fruit intake during the colder months- to ensure you are getting adequate fibre to feed your good bacteria which in turn impacts our health & wellbeing, both physical and mental. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions and barley are some of my favourite sources”
The great thing about these nutritious plant-based staples is that they lend themselves to so many dishes – from casseroles to stir-fries, soups to curries – so you can enjoy a different meal each day with the same reasonably-priced ingredients! (Made even tastier with some nourishing herbs – more on that later in the series!) And don’t forget the energy-saving tip from last week: try a little batch-cooking every now and then – for quick and nourishing meal choices that help you stop reaching for the take-away menu when you are too tired or hungry to think about cooking. Especially if you are cooking for a household – it isn’t a stretch to say that a fridge full of ready-made meals is a form of self-care for your tired, worn-out and mid-week self!
2. ‘COMFORT & GROUND’ YOUR BODY
In Chilly January With These Nourishing & Simple Ideas
NOTE: I will be using FIBRE89 & Green Coffee as an example for getting prebiotic and plant-based fibre nutrition into the diet in the suggestions below. Not only do they have positive health effects but they are really deliciously naturally sweet tasting! Remember: Green Coffee is derived from the Green Coffee Bean (one of the most nutritious fruits in the world) and Inulin is extracted from the root of the Chicory plant, so these drinks are actually food-grade. These are great options if you have loved ones who struggle with their daily intake of vegetables and fruit. Eg 1 teaspoon of Fibre89 is the equivalent of 1 of your 5 a day when it comes to fibre intake.
- Warming Soup To Nourish The Body When Feeling under the Weather
When you find yourself with a winter cold, it’s very important to stay hydrated – soup or a clear broth is a great source of hydration while you’re sick, in particular if you have a sore throat. Even the steam from your soup is beneficial to help open up airways, making it easier to breathe. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that can help relax muscles and soothe the discomforts of cold symptoms.
You have probably heard of ‘chicken soup for the soul’ or the old (wise!) wives tale that “chicken soup will cure your cold”. While, of course, we know there is no “cure” for this common ailment – there are studies to show that a hearty bowl of soup can help clear nasal congestion and ease cold symptoms. What’s more, someone lovingly preparing (even if that someone is yourself ☺) an aromatic steaming bowl of nourishing chicken soup is a heart-warming, comforting, experience and should indeed help you ride out a cold!
📌 SOUP DIY: There are endless combinations you can use to make a pot of soup that will last the week and provide quick and easy meals (Remember the ‘batch-cooking’ self-care tip from last week?). If you have a soup-maker at home, it will save time and effort (no stirring necessary), and it’s as easy as adding your favourite veg, organic chicken, a low-sodium stock*. Don’t forget to season with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and you can add in a little turmeric for a healthy, tasty kick! You can also spoon in a serving of FIBRE89 – a great camouflaging method for kids who may not like warm drinks, but need some relief from constipation or discomfort.
*When choosing stock, you can make your own, or choose a low-sodium, organic option like Kallo organic stock cubes. For added fibre, you can thicken and bulk the soup with pulses, or some Irish ‘Carrageen’ Seaweed. (Carageen is known as a good soother for colds/flus but is only edible after being cooked in liquid)
COMFORTING FIBRE89 HOT CHOCOLATE
A twist on the traditional hot chocolate (which is often a sugar overload!), this afternoon or evening snack is not only delicious and soothing but also will give you fibrous nourishment with the addition of FIBRE89 – composed of prebiotic Inulin fibre which your gut bacteria will love to see coming! The intake of inulin fibre will support balancing your blood sugars and help with normal bowel function. Cacao powder as opposed to Cocoa is rich in antioxidants and a variety of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron!
- 1 mug unsweetened coconut/almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 2 teaspoons raw cacao powder. (not cocoa)
- 1 teaspoon of FIBRE89 Cinnamon.
- Vanilla extract x ½ teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon local honey to sweeten (optional – if you like things really sweet!)
- Pinch of cinnamon (optional – helps a lot with cravings)
ch of cinnamon (optional – helps a lot with cravings)
Mix together the cacao powder and a little of the milk until it forms a paste.
Prepare as you would regular hot chocolate, heating milk on stove & just before it comes to boil, stir in the paste of the cacao & milk you’ve made up.
Pour into mug & enjoy!
BANANA-BOOST CINNAMON TOAST
A really good go-to when feeling peckish and needing an energy boost is hot mashed banana on sourdough toast. This snack ticks all the boxes: sweet, filling, warming, fibrous, delicious and oh-so-quick to whip up! Simply mash a banana over a slice of sourdough bread, shake a teaspoon of FIBRE89 Flavoured with Cinnamon over the top, and place under the grill – until the banana softens and starts to turn golden. We all have our own preferences on consistency, so keep an eye on it until it’s just right for you. Add a side of chopped avocado for some healthy fats, a kiwi or 1/2 cup of berries for a vitamin boost.
With a dusting of FIBRE89 Cinnamon, you add flavour depth, natural sweetness, and prebiotic fibre to this gut nourishing snack. Kids love this one!
📌WHY FIBRE IS SO IMPORTANT: Bowel movements are your body’s way of getting rid of waste that doesn’t have any use in your body, but when your system is not running well, constipation over a period of time can start to pose a risk to health in a number of ways.
HOT LEMON & GREEN COFFEE
At least once during the day, I add a teaspoon of Circle of Light Green Coffee to hot water. If I’m having this at home, I’ll add the juice of ½ a lemon for an extra vitamin boost. It’s so important to be mindful of what we take into our precious bodies! As I mentioned in Blog 1, hot drinks are a vital component in keeping your body running smoothly in colder temperatures, and this has become my daily go-to. This simple, hot & soothing drink is hydrating, refreshing, aids digestion, helps with skin health among other benefits and importantly isn’t flooding your system with caffeine.
A lot of people I see would have copious amounts of tea and coffee throughout the day and really want to cut down. Once I discovered the benefits of hot water and lemon years and years ago I have been an avid drinker of same each morning. I revel in learning every day and staying on top of discoveries such as the benefits of the unroasted green coffee bean. As there is a history of heart disease in my family I am naturally attuned to those food stuffs that will support my cardiovascular system. That’s why the addition of chlorogenic acid* (abundant in the unroasted green coffee bean) everyday is a no brainer for me.
📌 To preserve the natural active ingredients in the unroasted green coffee bean, use hot, but not BOILING water. Just pop the kettle off before it starts to rumble to a boil.
🔷 *Editor’s note – you can find out more about Inulin & chlorogenic acid (alongside research papers on its natural role in supporting heart function), on our science page.
That’s all for this week… Next week, in Part 3, I will be covering HERBS & SPICES that have been used medicinally for thousands of years to ward off colds, strengthen the immune system, and to garnish meals and most importantly, nourish the body.
For now, I’ll leave you with your shopping list and a reminder to check back in with Part 1 of this blog series if you want some versatile winter meal suggestions.
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Note: This blog is for Educational purposes only – please contact your GP with any health concerns you may have questions about.