It’s that time of year when there’s a noticeable chill in the air and the nights are starting to draw in. The change in seasons presents a challenge for our health, especially as cold and flu bugs start to circulate.
Here, we’ve put together 8 ways to help you stay fit and well over winter:
- Choose “in season” food
Where possible, try to eat “in season” fruit and veg such as blackberries, pears, carrot and beetroot. Not only will it have done fewer air miles to get to your shopping basket but foods in season contain the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need at this time of year. For example, butternut squash and apples are packed with vitamin C to boost our resistance to colds.
- Go outdoors often
As the evenings start to draw in, the low levels of daylight can cause some of us to feel tired and a bit down. In fact, studies have shown that 1 in 3 people in the UK suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective disorder is sometimes called “winter depression” as symptoms worsen with the change in seasons. One way to combat this is to get outside and make the most of the natural daylight whenever possible.
- Have a flu vaccination
Flu symptoms can come on quickly and spread to others through sneezing, coughing and touching surfaces which have been contaminated with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Symptoms include a sudden fever of 38c or above, aching body, sore throat, feeling exhausted, diarrhoea or tummy pain, cough and headache.
If you fall into the category of having a serious medical condition such as asthma, are over 65, or pregnant, then you may be more susceptible to contracting flu. The Government advises these more vulnerable groups to have a flu vaccination.
- Boost your vitamin C intake
Whilst the best source of vitamin C is from natural fruit and veg, if your diet is deficient in these fruits then it may be worth taking a supplement. The following foods are high in this essential vitamin:
- oranges and orange juice
- red and green peppers
- Brussel sprouts
Vitamin C has several important functions in the body, including protecting cells and keeping them healthy. The NHS website advises that adults (aged 19-64 years old) need 40mg of vitamin C a day.
- Have a hearty breakfast
There’s nothing nicer than being able to tuck into a warm breakfast on a cold winter morning. Having a bowl of porridge is a great way to start your day, and gives you slow release energy to keep you full for longer. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals.
Make your porridge with low-fat milk or a non-dairy alternative such as almond milk or water, and don’t add sugar or salt. Top with a sliced banana, raisins, mango or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit your 5-a-day target.
- Increase your intake of vitamin D
Studies have shown that Vitamin D, which our bodies normally synthesise from the sun, can help to ease depression, as well as reducing the symptoms of heart disease.
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. However, outside of these months, it is much harder to do so. Foods which are naturally high in vitamin D include:
- oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods – such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
- Stay hydrated
Current recommendations for how much fluid you should take in do vary, but many people aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. However, your fluid requirements may vary depending on how active your lifestyle is.
Keeping an eye on the colour of your urine is a good indication of whether you’re dehydrated. If your urine is colourless or light yellow, you know that your body is well-hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow, however, this can be a sign of dehydration.
- Get more sleep
A recent study has shown that lack of sleep can contribute to us getting sick. Researchers at the UW Medicine Sleep Centre examined 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns, taking blood samples from each. They found overwhelmingly that the twin who got less sleep had a more depressed immune system compared with their sibling.
Not sure how much sleep you should be getting? The Sleep Council recommends that the average person aged 18- 65 years old needs 7-9 hours per day. Find out how to create the perfect environment for a restful night’s sleep here.