Winter is upon us! My hometown in the deep south just got blanketed with several inches of snow last week, which was a big surprise. It is always important to prepare for the winter weather…wood for the fireplace and flashlights for power loss. But even more important, we could all use a health boost to our immune systems. Holiday decorations are going up everywhere but so are cases of colds and the flu. If you don’t want that kind of gift that keeps on giving, focus on these immunity-boosting tips to keep healthy all season long.
Warm Up Inside Out with Veggie Broth
With the chilly weather getting even colder, the best thing to bring everyone to the table is warm, soul-soothing soup or stew. You can make this even more beneficial though by adding veggie broth to the mix. I know bone broth is the talk of the health industry but for a girl who will not eat animal products vegetable broth works just as well. (If you like bone broth please feel free to use it.)
Vegetable broth with mushrooms, kombu, ginger, sweet potatoes and any other veggie you like will help provide much need vitamins and minerals, which nourishes the entire body.
Ways you can use broth:
- In soups and stews
- As a standalone warm beverage
- In place of olive oil when cooking
Eat Fermented Foods
Recent research has provided us with a new astounding fact – your gut is home to a second brain. It may sound crazy, but it's true. The good news is that you can keep those beneficial bacteria that flourish there to keep you healthy thriving and strong. The best way to do this is to start developing a fondness for fermented foods. Things like kimchi, the popular Korean side dish served with every meal, as well as sauerkraut, kombucha, or even pickles, to name a few.
Fermented foods list:
Make Room for Mushrooms
The kids might not be happy about this, but mushrooms have beta glucans in them, which help strengthen your immunity and block infections. You can eat whatever mushrooms you enjoy for this effect. Put them in your soups, add them to your mixed veggies, top your salad with them raw or cooked, chop them up and include them in just about anything. If you are like me and not a mushroom lover, I find chopping them up very small and adding into casseroles is a great way to get mushrooms in to non-mushroom lovers.
Stuffed mushroom recipe: Clean and de-stem mushrooms. Sprinkle olive oil inside mushrooms before stuffing. Stuff with your favorite ingredients — between 2-3 ingredients. Tomato, onion and an herb is always a great combination. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!
Other delicious foods you can add to your diet are ginger, garlic, turmeric and the superfood spinach.
Get Some Sunshine
Most people don’t get enough vitamin D in their lives. It might be cold out, but grab your warmest coat and let your face get some sun. Committing to a ten-minute walk each day makes a load of difference throughout the winter months. I take my dog, Taz, out for a walk and make sure we are facing the sun. It warms us as and we get some vitamin D on our face as we look for squirrels. To supplement, there are certain foods you can eat. Cook up fatty fish like salmon or serve more eggs, particularly the yolks. These have robust sources of vitamin D and for strict vegans, you can supplement.
Even though it’s freezing out, there are some fun activities you can enjoy this season that doubles as exercise. Activities such as ice skating, snowboarding, sledding, walking your dog, and even build a snowman.
Get More Rest
Maybe those hibernating bears are on to something. When your immunity is wearing down, one of the best things your body needs is to simply rest. It’s during the state of rest that your white blood cells work their magic, so take a load off and get in that nap or go to bed earlier every night. Take care of your health now because if you don’t build up your immunity, chances are you’ll come down with something right before that big party you’ve been looking forward to all season. Stay healthy!
Tips for great sleep:
- Get into the routine of a relaxing bedtime ritual such as reading a book, a self-massage, breathing exercise or even the yoga posture child’s pose.
- Use blackout curtains to block any streetlights beaming in your windows. I’m sensitive and wake up easily so the darker the room the better. Some people need blackout curtains to make sure they get their 8 hours.
- Go screen-free an hour or two before you crawl into bed. I know this can be hard but make it part of your bedtime ritual. The blue light from the TV and devices disturb your sleep hormone, melatonin.
Your immune system is tough and can fight off any nasty winter bugs if you take care of it. Stay strong and well this season.