Winter is the worst time of year for catching bugs so it’s important to ensure your immune system is in tip-top condition. Heading into the colder weather, this will help protect you against the higher levels of COVID-19 and flu we can expect to see. Acting now will help build your resistance and stand you in good stead for the coming season – and life in general.
Our immune system fights off pathogens like bacteria and viruses to keep us healthy. Your gut health and immune system are closely linked and can impact each other. If you can plan ahead, you’ll have everything you need to eat healthily, batch cook, and avoid processed foods and takeaways. Keeping the microbiome in your gut happy and healthy will do wonders for your immune system.
Hearty soups, slow-cooked stews with pulses, warm lentil salads, and dishes featuring seasonal produce like squashes and root vegetables are nourishing foods that are perfect for the cooler months. The fibres in these plants help nourish our gut microbiome. If we eat them in the evenings, the carbohydrates in them can help increase serotonin levels to promote rest and deep sleep.
What foods are good for gut health?
The gut microbiome thrives on a diverse diet, but nutrient-rich standouts include green vegetables (like kale, cavalo nero, and Brussels sprouts), mushrooms, oily fish, eggs, garlic, ginger, berries, and citrus fruits. Fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut give the probiotic bacteria in your gut a boost.
How do we get vitamin D in the winter months?
Vitamin D helps maintain the gut-immune connection and the best sources are fatty fish and fish liver oils, with lesser amounts found in egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D, and are high in B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium too.
Top food hacks to get more nutrients into your winter diet
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- Cook (steam or air fry) twice as many vegetables as you need at one time and use the excess as your base for soup. Just add stock or a tin of tomatoes and some lentils, grains, or pulses.
- Blitz a handful of chopped kale in your food processor and add it to hummus, dips, and pestos. By all means, add any herbs or spices you like.
- Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder to a tub of cottage cheese plus a handful of mango and pineapple. I decorated mine with passionfruit. A high protein immunity blast!
- Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder to 200g hummus. You (and the kids) won't even taste it, but you'll still benefit from its incredible nutrients. Add more if you like the taste.
- Add a few tablespoons of sauerkraut to potato salad.
- Stir some finely chopped kimchi into steamed rice or stir fries when they’re done for a nice little kick of tangy spice.
- Add a small amount of chopped kimchi into your scrambled eggs just before they’re set. Tuck your eggs into a tortilla and add avocado slices for a delicious breakfast taco. Top with more kimchi!
- Leave your sliced or whole mushrooms (gill-side up) outside on aluminium foil for 15 minutes before you use them – it should enhance the vitamin D by at least 25%.
- Preserve the nutritional properties of your mushrooms by grilling or microwaving them.
Fermented foods are easy to make but the idea of making them at home can seem intimidating. Once you know how you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Why not get in touch and book an online class to get you started? And if you need recipe inspiration for quick and easy, healthy and nutritious food, you’ll find plenty on the Fearless in the Kitchen Instagram and Facebook pages.
Do you have any hacks you can add? Let us know!