Top 10 Winter Superfoods
Sick of being sick during the sniffly season? Then read on. We count down some of the best superfoods to keep you fit, healthy and feeling great over the winter months.
Beyond being supremely tasty and pretty much the most orange thing in nature, carrots are excellent for everyone’s overall body health. They are a rich source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant which, among other uses, can be converted into vitamin A which helps increase T-cells and boosts immunity.
But that’s not all. The humble carrot is also great for your teeth as it increases saliva which aids in killing harmful germs in the mouth and prevents tooth decay. Carrots are a great source of potassium and fibre which can help reduce cholesterol to reduce the likelihood of heart disease and the development of blood clots.
Lemons do more than just add a citrusy zing to your meals; they have a long list of medicinal benefits as well. A single lemon has more than 100 percent of a daily recommended intake of vitamin C, which can help strengthen bones as well as reduce the length and severity of a cold.
Lemons dislodge phlegm and mucus from the airways and work as a diuretic to help the body flush itself of intoxicants. Whilst it can be consumed in any number of ways, it is best enjoyed raw in order to maximize the benefits. Drinking cold or warm water with slices of lemon is a great way to boost your vitamin C levels, but lemon works even better when combined with green tea. Research has shown that lemon can increase the body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants in the tea by 80 percent.
Long lauded for its ability to scare off vampires and ruin romantic moments, garlic is one of the best ways to keep winter illnesses at bay. Whilst incorporating garlic into your diet is a great way to look after your health year round, getting a few cloves into you is especially important during the sniffles season.
Garlic is a triple threat against infection, having antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and containing dozens of immunity boosting compounds. Garlic can help destroy a flu virus before it settles in. Best consumed raw, garlic does its most excellent work when chewed every four or five hours; however, if the taste is too pungent for you, cloves can be cut down into smaller pieces and eaten like pills. You can also crush them up and mix them with honey.
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce harmful inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can prevent your immune system from operating properly and can contribute to colds and flus. In addition to taking strain off your immune system, there’s also a growing body of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. So, by upping your fish intake, you can get the jump on those nasty winter colds before they get ahold of you — and you’ll enjoy a host of other health benefits too. If you don’t like to eat a lot of fish, taking a supplement such as a fish oil capsule can be a great way to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Eaten as a breakfast staple in many parts of the world, the humble oat is one of the most healthy substances on the planet. Whether consumed in a bar or in a bowl, oats have been linked to a huge range of benefits including lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, stabilizing blood sugar levels and enhancing immune response to infection.
Oats and barley are rich in a fibre known as beta-glucan. This fibre acts as both an antioxidant and an antimicrobial, two very important substances that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules or micro-organisms. Beta-glucan not only helps neutrophils (the most abundant type of non-specific immune cell) navigate to the site of an infection more quickly, it also enhances their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.
Beetroot has been used medicinally for a range of ailments including fever, constipation and skin problems, but new health claims suggest that it can also improve stamina, reduce blood pressure and even help prevent dementia.
Generally, the more vibrant the colour of the food, the more nutrition it has, and beetroot is certainly no exception. Its right red colour is a hint of the abundance of potassium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, carbohydrates, antioxidants, soluble fibre and vitamins A, B6 and C that it contains. So load up with some beetroot in your juice each morning. You’ll get immune-boosting antioxidants and stay hydrated, whilst keeping those nasty bugs at bay.
4. Dark Chocolate
Nutrition experts are in agreement that dark chocolate has a place in a healthy diet, and a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition has concluded that dark chocolate can boost your immunity, too.
Scientists have proven that chocolate is especially good for combating colds and flus. Tests have indicated that due to a combination of chemical reactions that occur in the body when a flu or cold virus is active, specific enzymes in the chocolate previously thought to be dormant will be activated. This enzyme group, known as Cocoaleases helps speed up white blood cell production, boosting the body’s immune system. Sweet!
Too much of anything can be a bad thing, though, and the nutritional benefits of chocolate can be quickly overshadowed by the sugar and saturated fat involved when wolfing down a truckload of candy bars each day. To get the most out of this superfood, it’s best to stick with bite sized portions and try to eat only dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher.
When the human body’s cells use oxygen, oxidation occurs which leads to the production of compounds called free radicals. Long term health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer have all been linked to oxidative damage. Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals found in food which can slow the oxidative damage to our bodies, and blueberries are the most powerful antioxidant fruit.
By consuming a half cup of berries each day, you’re able to help protect your body from a host of diseases including the common cold and flu, heart disease, asthma, arthritis and cataracts, as well as Alzheimer’s and age-related neurological diseases.
Similar to aniseed, fennel can ease coughing, unblock congestion and aid in soothing a persistent cough. Chinese medicine has advocated the use of fennel to prevent or lessen the symptoms of morning sickness and it also works well as a digestive agent, relieving discomfort after eating as well as providing relief from heartburn-related issues.
Fennel seeds can be roasted or even eaten raw, but the best way to introduce fennel into your diet is by drinking a brewed fennel tea. Simply steep fennel seeds in boiling water for five to 10 minutes until the desired strength is achieved, then strain and serve.
When it comes to vegetables, the darker the green, the more nutrients the vegetable tends to have. So, when you’re looking to give yourself an immune system jump start over the winter, you can’t do better than kale. Other leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are in the same family, but kale, with its thick, dark green leaves, is a nutrition powerhouse and an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K as well as folate and potassium.
With its thick, rubbery leaves and chewy texture, kale can take some time to grow on you but there are a number of ways to eat it. Make sure to thoroughly rinse before preparing, then try kale raw in a salad, pasta or soup, or even just drizzled with a little olive oil and sea salt then baked in the oven as scrumptious kale chips.