Staying well this winter and avoiding the dreaded S.A.D. is on everyone’s wish list as the evenings draw in, but what should we really be eating to keep fit and healthy?
Nutritionist Lily Soutter is here to bust some myths and advise on how to keep healthy this winter.
Will chicken soup cure a cold?
“Unfortunately, this old favourite is unlikely to stop a cold in its tracks.
What we do know is that fueling our body with nourishing and wholesome foods may give our immune system the best chance of doing its job when the infection hits.
There is limited evidence in test tube studies that chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory activities which, in theory, could ease the symptoms of a cold, but more research in humans is required to confirm these effects.”
Can Manuka honey cure a cough?
“A high-quality Manuka honey, such as Comvita has been shown to be more effective at relieving cough symptoms in comparison to no treatment, thanks to its antimicrobial properties, and has also been shown to soothe the throat. Not only that, Manuka honey from New Zealand, contains over 2000 plant chemicals which are substantially more than regular honey.
You can check if it is genuine Manuka honey by the UMF and MGO number. For example, Comvita’s Manuka with MGO 83+ and UMF 5+ is a great strength for everyday use, while the honey with an MGO 541+ and UMF 15+ is perfect if you are looking for that extra boost.”
*It’s important to note that honey should not be given to children under the age of 1
How can I avoid suffering from S.A.D?
“There are several ways you can ward off the effects of reduced daylight in the winter months.
Vitamin D: The benefits of Vitamin D were well documented during the lockdown and for very good reasons. In the UK, everyone over the age of 4 should consider taking a vitamin D supplement consisting of 10 µg (400IU) between October to April due to the reduced sunlight.
Sunlight: If you are lucky enough to see some, grab time in the sun. Natural daylight can work wonders on our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) and mood. Aim to get outside daily, even if it’s just for a brief walk. Natural light may help to slow the production of the sleep hormone melatonin during the day, which otherwise may result in lethargy and fatigue. Morning light appears to be most beneficial for stabilising our circadian rhythm and aiding with a better night’s sleep.
Furthermore, maximising the power of natural light may help to improve serotonin levels which impact well-being and even happiness.
Carbohydrates: Don’t fear the carbs as they help to generate the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. So, a low-carb diet may result in fatigue and low mood. However, it’s important to pick your carbohydrates wisely. Enjoy nourishing fibre-rich carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, wholegrain couscous, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats.
Support the Gut: Scientists are referring to our gut as the second brain and for good reason. The gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve and the two are constantly chattering with each other. If you’ve ever had that gut reaction or butterflies in your stomach, you will know the two are connected. As much as 90% of our ‘happy hormone’, serotonin, is in the gut, and 10% in the brain. Our gut bacteria are thought to influence serotonin production and may play a role in signalling to the brain.
You can support gut health by:
Aiming for 30g fibre per day – whole grains, beans, lentils, chickpeas, fruit, veg, nuts and seeds.
Eating the rainbow and counting the colours on your plate.
Including fermented foods in your diet- yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
A daily dose of Manuka honey: Again, a good Manuka honey, such as Comvita contains prebiotic oligosaccharides that may support gut health. In case you were wondering, Oligosaccharides are non-digestible carbs that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut and are important for maintaining gut health and a well-functioning digestive system. Studies have also shown that oligosaccharides found in Manuka honey promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.”
Can carrots help us see in the dark?
“Carrots are rich in beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body. This nutrient is important for contributing to the maintenance of normal vision. A deficiency in vitamin A can reduce vision in dim light and may result in night blindness. Carrots can help us to meet our daily vitamin A requirements, however, if our vitamin A status is sufficient, more of this nutrient won’t enhance night vision further.”
So, to give yourself a fighting fit chance to boost your immune system this winter, by investing in a pot of Comvita’s manuka honey, supplementing with some vitamin D and there’s no harm in cooking up a wholesome chicken soup and vegetable stew with grains and carrots. It’s all delicious, nutritious and gets out in the daylight when you can.