Article written by Gavin Stoddart – Personal Trainer and Bay City Gym Gym Manager
I have just read an article on the Be Pure website that I thought was really good. Be Pure is a local business that really understands the importance of looking at nutrition holistically. I am going to summarise the article here but feel free to contact the team at Be pure for more info or have a chat to our in-house Nutritionist/Naturopath Becs Lowe (contact details at reception).
The cold wintery weather affects more than your food choices and weekend sports and activities, it can also disrupt some of your body’s natural processes and impact your health which is why we need to listen to our bodies when they crave different things over the winter seasons.
While you may feel like you need to maintain your summer activity levels, winter is actually a good time to slow down, nourish your body and give it the time it needs to heal and prepare for the next spring and summer season.
Here is a list of 8 things recommended by Be Pure that you can do this winter to get the nutrients you need, and stay warm, happy and healthy.
- EAT SEASONAL PRODUCE
Fruit and vegetables that have been allowed to ripen naturally have the greatest number of nutrients.
Studies on super market produce have shown that within four days of harvest, many fruits and vegetables have lost up to 80% of their nutrient levels.
In addition to having a higher nutrient density, choosing to buy local, seasonal produce is usually cheaper as it’s more abundant and it hasn’t had to travel far to reach you.
- GET LOTS OF VITAMIN C
Many of us get run down and sick more over winter than in summer time. Stress and sickness both place a heavy demand on our bodies. In winter, it’s especially crucial to get as many nutrients as possible from what we eat. This helps support and boost our immune system allowing it to fight off colds and flu.
“Nature is pretty clever this way. Fruits that are in season now and throughout winter, such as kiwifruit, oranges and mandarins are all rich in vitamin C”.
Vitamin C boosts the production of antibody molecules. These are required to assist the body in the defence against bacteria and viruses, keeping you ahead of niggly coughs and colds.
- EAT MORE WARMING FOODS
During colder months, it’s also a good idea to give our digestive systems a bit of a break from raw foods such as salads that we tend to eat in summer.
Lightly steaming or sautéing your veggies as well as cooking them in soups, curries, stews, roasting them or putting them in the slow cooker will keep you warm and nourished.
- INCLUDE WARMING SPICES
“Spices that stimulate circulation, bring blood to the surface of the skin and warm up the body are known as warming spices.”
There’s a reason that cold chilly evenings bring to mind the comforting smell of chai and spiced hot chocolate. In traditional Chinese medicine, food is classified for its effect on energy in the body.
Spices that stimulate circulation, bring blood to the surface of the skin and warm up the body are known as warming spices.
Here are some favourites:
• Black pepper
• Cayenne pepper
These spices are a great way to warm you up on cold winter days, are extremely nutrient dense, help to soothe digestion, regulate blood sugar, top up your minerals and much more.
Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your porridge, spices in your curries or stew, ginger to your smoothie, black pepper to any of your meals.
- GET MORE SLEEP
As the nights get longer we need to adjust our sleep patterns. You may have noticed that you want to stay under your covers more often at this time of year.
A key cause of this effect is the lack of natural light in winter. It can actually disrupt some of your body’s natural sleep hormone process.
The reduced exposure to natural light in winter suppresses cortisol; the daytime hormone that wakes us up in the morning. This is why you can often wake up to your alarm feeling groggy in winter.
Melatonin is the other hormone that regulates sleep and is produced when the natural light starts to fade. In summer, when sunset is later, our melatonin levels kick in later as well. Our body’s natural response to this is to go to bed later.
“Because nightfall is earlier in winter, and there is less light overall, we are genuinely more tired earlier in the day.”
Rather than waking up at 5.30am and pushing through that morning fitness routine, enjoy that extra hour of sleep and feel your body thank you for it.
- EAT MORE HEALTHY FATS
Winter can be very drying on your skin. Heaters, wind, colder temps, are all major contributors to this. Consuming healthy fats and oils provides your skin with the oils and moisture it needs to stay hydrated and supple.
Here are some healthy fats that you can include in your diet:
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Flaxseed oil
• Coconut oil
• Raw nuts and seeds
• Oily fish – such as mackerel, sardines and salmon
• Fat from animal products including butter, ghee and lard
Stay away from processed fats such as margarines and things containing trans fats such as chippies and many other junk foods and remember most vegetable oils are best had cold rather than used for cooking as they breakdown under high temperatures where as saturated fats are more stable for heating. It’s important to understand the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats and remember that everything is best when consumed mindfully and in moderation.
- STAY HYDRATED
We can tell we’re dehydrated when we wake up with chapped lips or a dry mouth but it’s less obvious to see the dehydrating effect winter can have on your internal body.
The cooler weather means you may not feel the need to drink water to quench your thirst the way you would during the summer, however, it’s still just as important to stay hydrated with good quality clean water. Our body is made up of 60% water, so making sure that you are getting optimal amounts of water is essential for feeling good and having optimal health and energy.
Water transports nutrients throughout the body, aids in digestion, regulates temperature, facilitates all pathways of detoxification, protects our joints, promotes healthy bowel movements, improves mental concentration, and relieves fatigue.
During the winter try to drink a warm glass of water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar before breakfast and sip on tea and plenty of water throughout the day.
- PRACTICE MINDFULNESS AND GRATITUDE
Mindful wellbeing is key in living a healthy holistic lifestyle that is both enjoyable and sustainable. Especially during winter when many of us experience the “winter blues.”
During winter we often go to work when it’s dark, return home when it’s dark and frequently find it’s too wet to enjoy the outdoor activities we like doing – it’s not uncommon for that to make us to feel a bit down! If you have young kids and it’s wet outside, you’re also dealing with a lot of energy contained indoors.
Mindful wellbeing isn’t the “what” to do, it’s “how” to do it. It’s practices, habits, thoughts and behaviours that you can use to embrace calmness, balance and mindfulness to bring you energy and happiness.
These things are highly personal, however at their core is the same principle; you are intentionally and actively seeking to lower your body’s response to stress.
Here are some strategies and practices that might help you make positive changes this winter:
• Actually take your lunch break and use the time to clear your mind, catch up with a friend, or read a book.
• Put on a rain jacket, grab a pair of gumboots and go for a walk in nature.
• Learn to meditate.
• Keep a gratitude journal. Place this by your bed and each night write three things you’re grateful for.
• Switch technology off two hours before bed. This is the best strategy we have for creating more down time. It also opens up space in your day to reflect on your day, connect with your partner, read a book or take a bath.