Monday, 21 November 2016

Combating the Blues & Staying Healthy || Beating the Winter Blues - Winter Series

Beat the Winter Blues 

Welcome to the second instalment, of Beating the Winter Blues - Winter Series. If you missed last weeks, you can read it here: Boosting your Magnesium. Today we are talking Vitamin D and your immune system.

Now that Autumn is upon us with shorter days Winter is fast approaching and the mornings getting colder, some of us will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. Thought to affect as many as 29% of British adults, with over half saying that their mood worsened in the winter months due to the lack of daylight that they received, this condition can leave us feeling anxious, low on energy and even make us over-indulge on carb heavy comfort foods. However, certain lifestyle changes can alleviate the symptoms and perk you up when there simply isn’t enough sunshine to get you through the day.

In-house nutritionist Frida Harju at health and fitness app Lifesum (, shares her tips on foods to help you cope with SAD and boost your immunity with the approach of winter.


When you get less sunlight, one of the vitamins that will help you improve levels of serotonin and make you feel happier, is vitamin D. It also enhances the body’s absorption of other vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate. Vitamin D deficiency can be a result of many different lifestyle factors, whether it’s through your diet or lack of absorption by the body, and lack of exposure to sunlight. When in comes to winter it is recommended for you to take a daily supplement which provides 1000iu.

Groups at high risks of vitamin D deficiency are of Afro Caribbean and Asian descent, pregnant and breast feeding woman, children and the elderly.

Here are a few foods that provide Vitamin D:

  • Salmon – this is the top hitter for Vitamin D (wild salmon also has high levels of vitamin D than farmed salmon). Just half a fillet of salmon has over 1,000 IU of Vitamin D, which is more than the daily-recommended allowance for a person.
  • Milk/dairy/non dairy products – milk or dairy/non dairy that has been fortified with Vitamin D, most types of cow’s milk are, as well as almond & soya milk. You can also buy yoghurts and other dairy products that have been fortified (usually whole milk not semi-skimmed).  Ricotta cheese – ricotta has more than five times the amount of Vitamin D as other cheeses.
  • Eggs – two large free-range eggs can hold about one-eighth of your recommended dose of Vitamin D and also contain lots of other health benefits.
  • Tuna – tinned fish, such as tuna or sardines contain over a quarter of the recommended amount.
  • Tofu – one fifth of a block of raw tofu has 140 IU of vitamin D.
  • Mushrooms - can provide as much vitamin D as a supplement. Portobello, mistake, morel, button, and shiitake mushrooms are all high in vitamin D.
  • Orange juice – one cup of fortified orange juice has more Vitamin D than a cup of fortified milk, but make sure to go for a freshly squeezed juice if you can, packaged ones can be full of additives and sugar. Oranges also include vitamin C.
A word on supplements: You should always discuss with a doctor whether it is necessary for you to take supplements. Cod liver oil is a good source of Vitamin D and making sure you get enough daylight!

During the darker and colder months, we don’t only need combat SAD with vitamin D, but also boost our immune system. To do so we need to eat a balanced diet and exercise. Exercising a few times a week can hugely reduce the amount of colds that you get in a year, due to the numerous positive effects that it has on your body. For example, regular exercise helps your heart become stronger; your lungs get better at handling oxygen and become better at quickly delivering it to the rest of your body. Your immune system is very similar to these organs, which means that regular exercise provides your cells with a boost, helping them to work better and faster, which is essential when they are faced with bacteria.

Here are some good foods and drinks to consumer in order to boost your immunity:
  • Oranges - While the effectiveness of vitamin C is not proven to increase immunity, it is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key when it comes to your body fighting infections. Vitamin C is also a highly effective antioxidant, packed with nutrients that protect the body against reactive oxygen species, which are generated by immune cells to kill pathogens. Because our bodies don’t produce or store vitamin C, it is a good idea to add a daily intake to your diet, with orange juice with breakfast being a particular favourite.
  • Garlic - It is also fantastic at helping our bodies fight infections, with early civilisations employing it to fight disease. Garlic helps the body lower the levels of cholesterol and prevent the hardening of arteries, which is fantastic for your heart. It is also highly concentrated in allicin, which fights infections and bacteria.
  • Cranberries - The proanthocyanidins in cranberries contributes to a major part of the positive effects cranberries have on your body and except for preventing the heart disease and cancers, it has also been seen to cure liver ailments and gastric ulcers. It helps your immune system and wards off sore throats and colds, due to the anti-bacterial elements!
  • Tea - Tea is a great way to boost your immune system and the great news here is that you can choose whichever you prefer, be it green or black tea. Both are packed with flavonoids, a great antioxidant. Green tea also has high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, which is another antioxidant, which black tea unfortunately loses. Both teas are also rich in amino acids, which improve the body’s production of germ-fighting compounds.
  • Turmeric - Turmeric’s antibacterial and antiviral properties strengthen the immune system and can improve your chances against suffering from cold and flu. Turmeric also contains a substance whilst stimulates the body’s immune system and kicks it in to action if you already have a cold and is therefore a good natural remedy. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic qualities make it a good natural disinfectant and wound healer.

5 tips on how to Beat the Bloat this Christmas and a yummy smoothie recipe... read here.

Stay blessed and healthy.


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