Brrr, it's cold outside. While you may want to bury your head in a bucket of soothing fried chicken, some people (we like to call them the fun police) have different ideas about what should be gracing your plate or glass this winter. Hot tip: it's not red wine… Here are the best foods for winter wellness, as chosen by some of our fave health gurus.
1. Raw Garlic
According to the ever-lovely Lola Berry, this whiffy wonder ingredient will ward off winter bugs due to its high allicin content – an active sulphur compound. 'Garlic is pretty much Mother Nature's antibiotic, it's so so so good for you', says Lola.
Another of Lola's winter favourites, chili speeds up your metabolic rate and stimulates circulation (perfect for warming wintry tootsies). 'There's an old folk remedy that if you pop fresh chopped up chilies in your socks in the winter you won't get a cold! I tested it out in New York winter and it worked for me!' she insists.
'Ginger is fantastic for circulation; if you suffer from cold fingers and toes, double the dose!' says Eileen Sims of Raw Ambition. 'It's brilliant for a snuffly nose and chest congestion, so steep it with your herbal tea. It's also fabulous to calm an upset tummy.'
Meg Thompson of My Wholefood Romance also recommends ginger for wellbeing during the cooler months. 'Although ginger doesn't have the antimicrobial action of its sister, garlic, I can't go past ginger in winter for its fabulously warming nature. Along with boosting circulation to keep our mitts warm, ginger brings warmth to the digestive system, and is wonderfully anti-inflammatory.
I love to make a hot tea with fresh ginger to start the day and, if you're a bit under the weather, this will help to thin mucus and make sure you are properly hydrated. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne, and a smashed clove of garlic for the brave, and bam – you have a rocking flu tea!' says Meg.
Eileen's tip? Include ginger in a delicious and nutritious raw dessert like this one, grate it onto winter salads, juice it with greens, and generally aim for a tablespoon full each day.
Eileen also raves about avocado as a winter wellness warrior. 'A good intake of healthy fats is essential. I love avocados because they come packaged as a handy meal, with no processing required, meaning the mono-unsaturated fats are kept in perfect, unadulterated perfection.
This type of fat is great for you, especially for keeping skin soft and supple through the winter months. They also contain the super antioxidant Glutathione, which is a great immune system booster.'
Eileen's tip – Avo's are a great addition to a salad, on toast, in a chocolate mousse, or on their own, with some fresh chili.
5. Citrus Fruits
Citrus might seem like a summer-y ingredient best kept for squeezing in your vodka soda, but Eileen refutes this. 'Citrus is a winter crop with good reason. Citrus fruits are full of super nutrients to help ward off bugs, hence lemon juice (and I'm talking half a cup) with hot water, cayenne, ginger and garlic, is the best formula for a cold!'
She also recommends this super zingy and creamy winter dessert.
Bianca Monley from Eat Fit Food also abides by a winter diet full of antioxidant-rich bug-fighting citrus, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, mandarins, and tangelos. In addition to warding off illness, they have high levels of Vitamin C, dietary fibre, and folic acid, which is great for digestion.
6. Fermented Foods & Drinks
Kimchi fans rejoice – that fermented cabbage is not just delicious, it's one of the best foods around for keeping your tummy happy. 'They may look bizarre, but fermented and cultured products (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha) are absolute powerhouses of nutrition!' says Meg. 'Not only are they loaded with their own vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, they provide healthy bacteria to our digestive system, encourage the production of bacteria-fighting cells, and improve the function of immune cells.'
Fermented foods and drinks are your best friends when it comes to maintaining good gut health. 'If you are in the position where you need to take antibiotics, fermented foods and drinks restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut, and can also reduce any digestive side effects you may experience. Given that around 80% of our immune function is centred in our guts, it makes sense that these probiotic wonders are golden additions to our diet during winter, or any time!'
(Editor's note: Check out Meg's new book on fermented beverages!)
7. Healthy Fats
Think coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts (plus avocado). According to Meg, 'we all know that fruit and veggies are chock full of wonderful nutrients to nourish our bodies and stave off illness. However, in order to properly absorb these magic goodies, we need to pair them with some sort of dietary fat. Rather than a fat-free salad dressing, dress your greens in an oil-based delight, or cook your stir-fry with coconut oil, which has a fabulous nutrient profile and is supportive to the immune system on its own.'
8. Root Vegetables
According to Bianca, now is the time to feed your body with root vegies like beetroot, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, and parsnip. Yum! She adds, 'root vegetables grow underneath the ground where they are able to absorb high amounts of minerals and other nutrients from the soil. They are also able to absorb important nutrients from the sun through their leaves. They provide complex carbohydrates, which leave you feeling fuller for longer and give you energy throughout the day.'
Bianca's Tip? Slow cook some root vegetables in your crockpot or pop in hearty winter soups. 'Try not to peel the vegetables, there are so many nutrients stored in the skin', she adds.
9. Brown Rice
Huzzah! It's not all almonds and lemon water; we should be indulging in carbs this winter, too. Bianca lists brown rice as one of her favourite foods for winter wellness, as, unlike white rice, it 'hasn't been through a milling process to remove the bran and germ, which contains most of the nutrients, and is a rich source of antioxidants and fibre'.
It's also low GI, keeping you fuller for longer, and is a powerhouse of nutrients like magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Bianca recommends a steaming bowl of rice porridge to kick-start a winter morning.
10. Herbal Teas & Water
Just because it's cold, doesn't mean you should skimp on your H2O consumption! In fact, during winter you're faced with greater exposure to heating and climate-controlled offices and homes. Says Bianca, 'dehydration can cause fatigue, and it is easy to confuse thirst for hunger and start snacking'.
She recommends aiming to drink eight large glasses of water a day, including herbal teas, which 'contain no caffeine and have many therapeutic and medicinal benefits, including achieving a more calm and relaxed state of mind'.
Winter is all about hearty soups, casseroles, and belly-warming goodness, and a good, healthy stock is a must. According to Bianca, a stock is a 'magic ingredient made from bones of chicken, fish, and beef, that builds strong bones, assuages sore throats, and nurtures the sick'.
We've all heard that chicken broths help cure colds, and it's not just an old wives' tale. 'Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily — not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and trace minerals', says Bianca.
Her tip? Add homemade stock to your winter soups, casseroles, stews, risottos, or pasta sauces for some added nutritional value. Freeze them to have on hand for a rainy day!
Image Credits: Simply Seductive, Pinterest, Big Girls Small Kitchen