Eat to boost your antioxidants
Eating a rainbow of different coloured fruit and vegetables is an easy way to ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients with antioxidant benefits - like vitamin C found in citrus fruits, dark green leafy veg, peppers and berries. Zinc is another key immunity nutrient to help you fight off colds and infections and one of the best sources is seafood. Selenium found in brazil nuts, fish, poultry and beans is also worth stocking up on.
There’s strong evidence to show that the good fats known as omega 3s (found in oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and eggs) can help to boost the immune system - aim for at least 2 servings of these omega 3s a day.
Support digestion with friendly bacteria
Adding some ‘good bacteria’ to your diet in the next few weeks will not only help to keep your digestion regular, making you feel lighter and less bloated, but will also help to fight off any bugs that could lead to coughs, colds and tummy bugs. Instead of choosing the sugary probiotic drinks, choose naturally occurring probiotics found in natural yogurt (no added sugar). Prebiotics (the food that probiotics thrive on) are found in foods such as leeks, onions and garlics - so start adding these to your diet too.
One thing to note is that too much sugar in the diet (or refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, white rice and cakes and biscuits) can reduce the level of good bacteria in the gut, so try to limit these foods. Symptoms of an imbalance of gut bacteria include bloating, frequent infections, thrush and unpleasant smelling stools.
Nature’s best (and free) nutrient
If you do just one thing to set your body up for the party season, make it your focus to drink more water. Water is essential for keeping mental focus and performance high, for optimum digestion, for keeping you feeling full and for helping to keep skin looking plump and glowing. If you’re not getting at least 1.5 litres a day, think about how you could incorporate more throughout the day. Do you have a favourite caffeine-free tea like jasmine or redbush? Or could you add freshly squeezed lime juice to fizzy water as an afternoon alternative to coffee?
Make sleep your focus
Although you can’t store up sleep as such, making sleep a priority over the next few weeks will help you to boost your immunity and ensure you’re feeling and looking your best for the start of December - lack of sleep not only puts you at risk of picking up infections, but it also increases appetite, lowers mood and concentration and will make you less inclined to be physically active. If you struggle to sleep try having a small carbohydrate-rich snack around 30 minutes before bed - a small bowl of cereal with milk or a slice of toast with honey may help. This is because carbohydrates release the relaxing amino acid tryptophan.
So instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of festive fun and feeling exhausted by December 20th, take some small steps now to keep your defences and spirits high!
Written by Ruth Tongue