English summer weather has its ups and down – but when the sun does shine – we are good at making the most of it! While our Mediterranean friends with their enduring sun and heat may wish for cooler days, we are somewhat less keen to leave behind summer with such positivity. Here are some nutrition and lifestyle tips to support you moving forward into the new seasons with a smile.
1. Cosy and nurturing food
Autumn, while not especially cold, can be typically windy and rainy. As the leaves fall, we may find ourselves naturally seeking heartier and warming meals and moving away from light suppers, salads and smoothies. Appetites may increase and so too can a preference for sweets, chocolate and starchy carbohydrates (e.g chips). Here are some simple ways to help you stay on track
- Batch cooking chunky soups and stews can save an enormous amount of practical and mental time. Freeze some in small portions for satisfying and wholesome ready-made meals for lunch or supper –just add a side of steamed vegetables or salad of seasonal leaves.
- Slow cooking stews made with a range of seasonal vegetables, nutritious grains like buckwheat or quinoa, and a source of protein such as meat, fish, lentils or beans
- Eating protein with each meal can help to promote satiety (feeling filled up) and once we digest proteins, they form the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Good neurotransmitter health supports how we think, feel and behave and most of us could do with extra mood support as we move through autumn.
- Using plenty of warming herbs and spices in soups and stews to support circulation to induce support the immune system. Ginger, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, paprika, horseradish, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin and onions are all nourishing – especially if you feel under the weather.
- Warming up a salad by adding roasted vegetables to raw salad leaves e.g roasted beetroot and rocket salad. Drizzle flaxseed oil to boost your omega 3 as good oils support immunity.
2. Building the immune fortress
Your immune system is similar to a savings account; making regular investments in advance, will give you the security for you to fall back on in the long term. Start supporting this natural defence against seasonal colds and flus at least 3-4 months in advance of the coldest months.
- Increase zinc rich foods (dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood and fish).
- Build in colour with a mix of seasonal vegetables and fruit such as apples or berries for vitamin C and circulation supporting anthocyanidins.
- Cut back on refined sugar. Not only does sugar have a suppressive effect on the immune system, it also increases the wrong kind of inflammation in the body and generally is a chemical catalyst for cellular damage, which may be weakening to our system. Sugar also feeds unwanted bacteria in the gut and because most of our immune system resides in the gut, a happy gut is the road to building a strong immune system. Increase naturally beneficial bacteria with fermented foods (e.g sauerkraut and kimchi) and consider using a higher dose of varying strains of friendly bacteria to optimise levels.
- Don't forget about vitamin D, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system. Only 10 % comes from food, which means the rest is required from consistent sunlight or via supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to poor immunity and seasonal mood related issues.
- The latest research on medical mushrooms has shown that they are able to be effective at modulating the immune system and exert an inhibitory effect against viruses.
3. Your last chances to complete a cleanse
Cleansing at the beginning of every new season can be supportive but make sure you adjust it to fit with the season. Autumn is a time of preparation and nourishing so choose warming, nutrient rich foods in autumn and winter instead of juice cleanses for example. Summer for many can be a long stretch of weekly indulgences – think holiday treats, alcohol at weddings and barbecues and beachside ice cream. Therefore consider a few weeks where you avoid certain foods and drink. Instead include highly nutritious, nourishing meals and make an effort to get 8 hours sleep a night. Alongside this consider a supplement cleanse programme.
Darker mornings and poorer weather are off-putting and we may feel less inclined to jump out of bed for a run in the park! Your current regime need not fall to the wayside, just make some simple changes.
- Join an exercise group. Research shows you need more will power to exercise alone. Pick a fun and upbeat exercise such to boost endorphins (happy hormones) to beat the cold-weather blues, or combat stiffness by practising yoga.
- Swimming supports the whole body and if your club also has a sauna or steam room then that can be a great way to feel cosy post-swim. Sweating is also a good way of cleansing by releasing unwanted waste via the skin.
Be mindful of energy and not over-training, especially when reduced energy may compromise the immune system. When we exercise, we do put ourselves under oxidative stress (cellular damage). Therefore make sure you eat plenty of immune supporting foods as well as taking in extra herbs and botanic such as turmeric and grapeseed (you may want to try an antioxidant boost).