Winter is nature’s time of reflection and a time of trusting that Spring will come. In Chinese Medicine Winter is governed by the Water Element, reminding us to keep hydrated – not just with water, but with good oils as well.
As we reach the end of the year, the festivities of Christmas take centre stage. Whilst tasty treats remain the focal point for many family traditions, neglecting your body and filling yourself with a mass of unhealthy foods can lead to you feeling run-down and miserable. Overindulging with a box of your favourite chocolates and too many roasties can make your skin dull and your waistline thicker but don’t despair because the delicious seasonal foods of Winter will have you jumping for joy, back on track, and brimming with delight in next to no time.
STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
The best thing you can do for optimum health and wellness this Winter is to strengthen your immune system naturally by eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Immune-boosting seasonal foods nurture both your inner and outer soul. If you are one of many who are suffering with the dreaded sniffles, it could be time to take a step back and assess your diet.
During the colder months it is important to stock up on healthy fats, for example nuts (especially almonds, cashews and walnuts), seeds, and coconut oil. An easy way to add the goodness of coconut oil to your daily diet is to stir in a teaspoonful to a cup of green tea. Coconut oil is a powerful antimicrobial, which will help to keep your immunity strong and increase your body’s natural mechanisms of repair, growth and detoxification.
Iron, zinc and vitamin C are also vital for optimal health and for keeping the immune system strong. Eat lots of dark, leafy greens such as kale and chard, which are packed with the medicine of sunlight, providing a healthy boost of iron. Greens are also crammed full of folic acid, fibre, chlorophyll, and many other vitamins and micronutrients. They are some of the easiest and most beneficial vegetables to add into your daily diet during the Winter months. Try adding them to a juice of spinach, carrot, beetroot and lemon, all of which will boost your immune system and detoxify your body.
Vitamin C is an extremely important nutrient for boosting immunity and maintaining healthy tissues, as well as aiding the absorption of iron. It can be found in foods such as lemons, cranberries, oranges, winter squash and – everyone’s favourite – brussel sprouts!
Zinc also plays an important role in our immunity to infection, and can be found in root vegetables (carrots, beetroot and turnips), broccoli, spinach, apples and, in smaller amounts, in nuts, seeds and wholegrain bread. If you suffer from frequent colds and coughs during Winter and generally have a weaker immune system, then it would beneficial to increase your intake of zinc. Concentrate and focus your efforts on adding lots of fresh and seasonal fruit and vegetables to your daily diet. These will provide your body with a boost of powerful antioxidants that will help to protect your body against damage and infection.
More great immune strengthening foods include: ginger, garlic, green tea, lentils, brown rice, oats, and seaweed. Ginger tea helps stimulate circulation, bringing you warmth that extends from the tips of your fingers right down to your toes, whilst also uplifting your spirits.
CHOCOLATE IS GOOD FOR YOU
A number one favourite during the festive period is chocolate, and lots of it! We have constant temptation all around us, whether it be the office box of chocolates (yes, the hazelnut twirls are always a favourite!) or the children’s chocolate treats from the Advent calendar. The best news is that chocolate, of the dark and raw variety, actually has many health giving properties and can provide us with a good dose of the vitamins and minerals we need on a daily basis. It is loaded with magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, and antioxidants, all of which help to keep your heart healthy, your bones strong, your thinking sharp and your skin hydrated. Raw or dark chocolate is the perfect pick-me-up afternoon treat; two squares should be plenty for a boost of ecstatic delight!
Vitamin D, otherwise known as “the sunshine vitamin”, is also important for boosting our immunity. If you are having doubts about whether or not you are getting enough sun exposure, it is worth increasing foods rich in vitamin D, such as egg yolk and oily fish and, if necessary, taking a supplement. However, an easy way to boost vitamin D is to take a walk outside in the sun whenever possible. This will also help to keep you active and revitalize your mind.
Winter is the ideal time to start paying attention to our bodies and trusting the cycles of life. It provides us with the perfect opportunity to go within and find out what we really need, and to become mindful of the foods we consume. If we can take the time to look after ourselves, fueling our bodies with seasonal foods and cooking with loved ones, we open ourselves up to the joyful festivities of Christmas and everything that life brings, and ready ourselves for the start of Spring and beyond.
Please enjoy my own creation of gluten-free raw chocolate brownies. The taste is beyond incredible and the best thing of all is that they are healthy!
2 cups Medjool dates (remove seeds)
1 cup cacao powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
2-4 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp flaxseeds
1-2 tsp ground mixed spice and/or cinnamon
¼ tsp pink Himalayan salt
Optional: ¼ cup mixed nuts (crushed) and/or cocoa powder to garnish
Put walnuts and almonds in a high-speed blender and blend until all nuts are finely ground.
Add the flaxseed, salt, mixed spice/cinnamon and cacao powder and blend again until all ingredients are combined.
Add dates one at a time through the top of the blender whilst it is running. Add the coconut oil (how much depends on the consistency of the mixture- it should almost be like a dough). If it does not hold together well, add either more dates or coconut oil, depending on personal taste.
Put mixture into a lined brownie/cake tin or mold.
Place in the fridge or freezer and let the mixture set for at least an hour.
Slice it up into small squares when the brownie mixture is cold. Add mixed nuts and/or cocoa powder to garnish. Enjoy!