This month Together Health dietician Lola Biggs shares her top tips to help stay healthy this winter.
The leaves are falling and the sunlight is getting scarcer by the day…winter is on its way.
Winter months affect us in many ways, socially, emotionally and physically. Here are some ways I have combined my knowledge of nutrition with lifestyle routines I have learnt to ensure I am feeling my best, which in turn helps me look my best!
Get your Vitamin D
As daylight dwindles, getting exposure to it is key – I see it as a priority to get out and about when the weather permits, making sure I follow the sun so I can enjoy that winter warmth from its rays. These rays are not quite strong enough to bring about vitamin D synthesis, so from October onwards we begin to rely on our vitamin D stores which were topped up during the summer months.
This unique vitamin works hard to keep us ticking, so I like to give my stores a helping hand by bringing good sources into my diet, such as wild sustainable mackerel and good quality eggs. I also like to take some as a supplement, choosing Vitamin D3 in cholecalciferol form so I keep topped up with a plant-based (lichen) source. I look for 1000iu (international units), the recommended amount, and avoid any vitamin D3 with unnecessary ingredients.
Nourish hair & skin
Hats and scarf season for me means inevitable bad hair days. I find a simple braid in the hair can prevent damaging tangles along with a weekly hair oil treatment to soothe the scalp and stimulate circulation whilst nourishing the ends. Hair growth slows in the winter months, so every strand matters! Make sure you fuel hair growth and repair with key nutrients such as biotin – a B vitamin –silica, which can be extracted from bamboo, vitamin D and proteins such as collagen.
Chapped lips, weather-battered cheeks and noses plus central heating can lead to fragile and irritated skin. Steer clear of petroleum-based lip balms and reach for nourishing natural and organic multi-use balms (ideally with calendula). Keep one in your pocket – this keeps it at hand’s reach and warms it up, easing use. I use mine for hands, lips, nose and anywhere that takes a beating during the winter. The one I’d recommend is Weleda Calendula Weather Protection Cream.
Boost your defences
The fated winter flu never seems to skip a year, and with that in mind I aim to be ready. I do this by putting some time aside each week to make nourishing and immune-boosting homemade broths, soups and stews and store them in the fridge for the week ahead. Visiting a local farmers’ market where you can seek out the season’s bounty is not only great value, but also means no unnecessary plastic packaging. If you go in the last hour you can always grab a bargain.
Getting sick can be the biggest party pooper during this period. Sometimes it is inevitable, but I always find prioritising rest, keeping cosy and having vitamin c and zinc in easy supplement form to hand really helps me recover quickly. I aim to drink hot teas that are full of antioxidants – matcha is a great option for those who want a healthy energy boost. After work hours, I change it to a caffeine-free herbal cuppa, reaching for ginger, elderberry or echinacea.
When it is cold, wet and dreary outside, the body begins to talk to us with stiffness, lack of motivation, aches and sometimes pain. I find that choosing exercises that I can do indoors, like yoga helps me feel more mobile. Finding a cosy studio close to home or work is also a great idea, this reduces the chances of the weather determining whether you go or not. Choose a studio that suits your needs, and if you can find one with a sauna this is a fantastic bonus as it has been shown that regular 20-minute sauna visits support your immune system.
Hopefully starting some seasonal habits and being mindful of the inevitable changes that the next few months will bring can help you enjoy winter and feel energised all the way until spring.