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Winter-wellness tips

As a teen, my young friend Katie was a ‘pot-lid-lifter’, always wanting to know what was going on in the kitchen. Unlike most others of her generation, who, as teenagers were only interested in the end product of the cooking process, Katie was fascinated with the science behind the food. So it was no surprise to learn that she went on to study food science at Otago University and graduated with flying colours. Fast forward a few years and Katie is now a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, fulfilling her dream to work in the area that intrigued her so much as a youngster. Katie talks to Justine Tyerman about ‘sloooooooowing down for winter’.

While we all miss the warm summer months where our motivation levels to lace up our sneakers, get some exercise and devour an abundance of leafy greens are a lot higher, winter is actually a great time to slow down and focus on nourishing the body.

Here are some of the tips I've been recommending to my clients this winter.

• Sleep. Yes, I give you full permission to snuggle back down in bed with a hot-water bottle on a frosty cold morning. When we sleep, our bodies repair and recharge — aim for eight hours a night.

• Slow-cooked foods. Not only do many of these recipes include your slow cooker, meaning no cooking when you return home in the evening, they are also warming, nutrient-dense, and an easy way to use up any vegetables lurking in your fridge.

• Embrace restorative exercise like yoga, pilates, and walking in nature. These types of exercise can help us to reduce stress and promote rest and relaxation, connect with our bodies and be in the present moment. Unless of course, you're feeling up to a mid-winter swim? That's great for the body too.

• Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water. Water is essential for transporting nutrients throughout the body, promoting healthy digestion, regulating body temperature, and detoxification . . . not forgetting lubricating our joints and enhancing concentration and energy production. Sip on warm water throughout the day and enjoy herbal tea breaks.

• Eat produce that is in season. Not only is seasonal produce more abundant, it is more nutrient-dense, rich in flavour and easier on your wallet. A nutrient-dense diet is crucial for supporting your immune system throughout the cooler months and it is especially important to consume foods high in Vitamin C. So what should you eat? Plenty of green vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and silverbeet. And citrus fruit including grapefruit, lemons and oranges and root vegetables such as kumara, carrots, pumpkin and squash. Whether you grow your own, visit your local vegetable store or head out to forage at your local farmers' market, knowing your vegetables are in season and where they came from is important and pretty special. Be sure to nourish yourself — your body will thank you for it.

• Nourish your gut. Did you know that 70-80 percent of your immune cells are located in your gut? Therefore, by nourishing your gut you are also supporting your immune system. Gut-nourishing foods include bone broth and omega-3 essential fatty acids found in oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds; and high-fibre foods such as vegetables, especially leafy greens, gluten-free whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.Prebiotic foods — legumes, onion, garlic, leeks, oats — feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods are slightly different from prebiotic food in that they contain beneficial bacteria that can support your intestinal/gut flora balance and diversity — sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso and yoghurt.

• Spice up your meals. Spices not only add flavour but are also a lovely way to add warmth to your winter meals, soothe digestion, stimulate circulation, balance blood-sugar levels, boost micronutrient levels and some even have antimicrobial properties.

Get creative and add spices to your beverages and meals at any chance you get. A few of my favourite spice ideas:

— Sip on hot water with slices of fresh ginger. Ginger is fabulous for circulation and for easing nausea and reducing gas.

— Sprinkle cinnamon on your porridge or add to a smoothie or add a stick of cinnamon to your water bottle. Cinnamon is great for stabilising blood-sugar levels.

— Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Sprinkle this into soups, curries and omelettes. You might even like to try swapping your morning coffee for a turmeric latte.

Cardamom, clove and nutmeg are also great additions to curries, stews and soups, each providing their unique flavour and health benefits.

• Eat more healthy fats. Quality fats help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K from your vegetables and they work alongside your body to support healthy winter skin. Examples of good fats are extra virgin olive oil, hemp oil, flaxseed oil, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, butter and ghee.

A nutrient-dense diet is crucial for supporting your immune system during the winter. Picture by Jayne MacDonald
Katie Griffin has a degree in food science and is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Picture by Abbe Hoare
Squash contains beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A (fat-soluble vitamin) and Vitamin C. Both are important for the immune system. Picture by Jayne MacDonald