As winter approaches and the cold, long nights creep in, it’s natural to feel lower in mood and energy. Autumn and winter were traditionally seasons of hibernation and restoration, yet modern society often expects us to act the opposite at this time of year – most companies are busier than ever planning for the next season leaving little time to slow down or recharge. Your food choices this season can help make autumn life a little easier. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my own immune-boosting, autumnal recipes… in the meantime, here’s some tips to help you stay healthy and happy:
Beat that cold
Boost your immunity by increasing your Vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is protective and, in large quantities, restorative too. Foods with a high vitamin C content include bell peppers, dark leafy greens (such as kale), kiwi fruit, sweet potato, berries, broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Try to eat more garlic too! Garlic is antiviral and powerful in fighting bacteria and cold weather bugs.
Choose Echinacea over prescribed medication for a more natural way to boost your defences. Shitake mushrooms and goji berries are also great choices for supporting immune function.
Avoid slipping into ‘cold weather’ habits and giving in to your white carb and sugar cravings. Instead, stock up on seasonal and vitamin-rich vegetables such as pumpkin, squash and swede, and fruits such as blackberries, apples and pears. All low in calories and will keep you fuller for longer. Figs are also a great high-fibre autumnal treat and are rich in calcium.
Spice up your meals with energising digestive spices such as ginger, cumin seeds, cardamom, black pepper and turmeric.
Try this hot tonic to fight off a cold: mix the juice of half a lemon with 1/2 tsp turmeric and 2cm grated ginger in a mug of hot water. You can also add a drop of maple syrup to sweeten.
Choose happy foods
As it gets darker our body’s production of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin reduces. The body makes serotonin from an amino acid called tryptophan which can be found in plant proteins such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, seaweed (spirulina) and a variety of beans and lentils.
A good tip is to combine these foods with wholegrain carbs such as brown rice, quinoa or oats – this will help you to digest the protein much more slowly, with energy released more steadily and consistently, keeping blood sugar levels stable and boosting the amount of tryptophan available for the brain to use.
My perfect autumnal breakfast is a big bowl of porridge, cooked gently with almond milk and banana, sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with seeds, nuts, dates, and fresh figs or berries: