Winter is fast approaching and with so much focus on supporting our immune system, this year especially, what are the things we can all do to increase our nutrient intake? Claire Sambolino, a CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist and Communications Manager at the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) offers some useful advice on how to support your wellbeing by eating well:
Eating a varied diet, rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, wholefoods, and healthy fats, can support the immune system and help chase away those winter blues. With a confusing amount of online nutritional advice, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. BANT Registered Nutritionists ® work one-to-one to offer personalised nutrition advice and have a set of wellbeing guidelines when personalised advice is not available.
Knowing which foods contain which nutrients is a tall order for most people. Focusing on increasing the overall variety and colours of foods you regularly eat is a great way to ensure your diet includes a wide range of all nutrients. Some vitamins are especially helpful for supporting our immune system such as vitamins C and D.
Vitamin D insufficiency is common in northern countries throughout the winter months, with limited daylight hours and sun exposure. Unfortunately, it is also one of the vitamins which is harder to source from foods as sunlight is how we naturally produce Vitamin D in the body. Many foods, especially in the dairy and cereal categories, are now fortified to provide Vitamin D and it can also be found in small amounts in foods such as oily fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks.
In contrast, Vitamin C is more readily available in plant foods such as citrus fruits, colourful vegetables and leafy greens. Our body typically cannot store much of it so it’s important to regularly consume these foods to maintain optimal Vitamin C levels. Aiming to eat 5 to 7 portions of plant foods daily is a good place to start.
2020 has been a remarkable year and as we continue to live in these uncertain times it is natural to feel a certain amount of anxiety. Living with social distancing measures has been unsettling for everyone and has undoubtedly affected mental health. During moments like this it is human nature to reach for familiar comfort foods and drinks. However, be mindful as they might not necessarily be the most helpful or healthful foods to support anxiety. In fact, many foods and drinks can make us more anxious, especially if processed or full of added sugars, such as soft drinks and processed snacks. Too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and ultra-processed foods over-excites our nervous system and may increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. So, comfort foods are perhaps not as comforting as they seem.
By contrast, natural ingredients such as fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, dairy and protein foods all provide more beneficial nutrients.
Eating foods in their natural state helps our response to stress and anxiety by balancing our body’s natural communication systems of hormones and neurotransmitters. Stocking the fridge with plenty of fresh produce is a great way to ensure you have a range of nutritious foods available for mealtimes and snacks. Fresh air, exercise, time spent in nature and getting a good night’s sleep have also all been shown to positively boost mood so building in healthy lifestyle habits, alongside eating well, is just as important.
The Wellness Solution
You can view this image on the BANT website here.