Wellbeing & Lifestyle

Winter Wellness Guide

By Kris McIntyre and John Niotakis - Kris is a qualified Ryoho Yoga & Shiatsu Therapist and freelance writer. She works in Healthy Life’s support office. John is a qualified Naturopath and has run his own practice since 1997. John works at Healthy Life Fountain Gate

In nature, winter is the season for hibernation – a time for resting and restoring. It’s also the perfect time to focus inwards and build strength and stability in the body with the right food and wellness rituals to support you through the cooler months.

Winter eating:
According to Ayurvedic wisdom, winter is actually the season when the digestive fire (‘agni’) is strongest and the body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy. Therefore, our bodies tend to crave a more substantial, nutritive diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself eating larger quantities of food. We also need warm, strong and hearty food during the winter months to provide us with the support we need to endure the cold weather.

Cooking styles:
It’s time to get your pressure cooker out – long, slow cooking methods (e.g. casseroles, stews, soups and broths). Other tips:

  • Add a little more seasoning (salt and spices) and oils (e.g. olive, sesame, almond, flax seed) 
  • Don’t forget some lightly cooked fresh greens – to lighten your body and mood! 
  • Try to avoid raw, cold and uncooked foods during winter 

Eating with the seasons
Eating locally grown, seasonal vegetables helps you adapt to your surroundings by subtly connecting you to the rhythm of the seasons. In winter, more ‘contractive’ and warming vegetables (such as carrots, kale, broccoli, parsnip, swedes and turnip) give us the stamina and vitality we need in winter. In very cold climates, pickles and dried vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, onions, winter squashes, roots and cabbages) are also recommended.

Tip: If you are not sure what grows naturally in your environment, visit your local farmers market.

Healing foods for winter:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is when the ‘water element’ in the body is most prominent. This energy system is linked to the structural integrity of our body and its shape, the kidney and bladder organs and associated energy systems, our sense of identity, our hormonal and nervous systems, bones, sexual energy and reproductive functions. Winter is the ideal time of the year to deal with these functions and issues including lower back pain, stress and hormonal imbalances.

The following foods help to support the water element in the body:

  • Beans e.g. adzuki, kidney 
  • Seaweeds – especially kombu, wakame, hijiki 
  • Shitake mushrooms 
  • Small fish e.g. sardines, herring, whitebait 
  • Grains – buckwheat, brown rice, barley, soba (noodles)
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Dark fruits and vegetables eg. blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, dark grapes

Try to avoid:

  • Ice cold food and drink 
  • Milk and dairy foods 
  • Too much raw food 
  • Sugar (it can damage your 
  • immune system)
  • Excess salt (see our facts box 
  • about salt below)
  • Salted meats and salt-preserved foods
  • Too much liquid 
  • Wine
  • Caffeine
  • Chemicals and preservatives
  • Recreational ‘party’ drugs
  • Eating late at night

Winter supplements – to keep colds and flus at bay

  • Vitamin D and Green Tea contain antiviral components which can help fight a flu infection.
  • Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Use a natural form, such as Acerola, which is loaded with micronutrients.
  • Wild Oregano Oil is antiviral and antibacterial.
  • Bee Pollen - it is one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth (caution: some people can be highly allergic).
  • Olive Leaf Extract is a great natural immune system builder.
  • Rieshi mushrooms, shitake and maitake can offer great support to the immune system. They are high in protein, trace minerals, polysaccharides, amino acids and fiber. There are great mushroom supplements available.
  • Zinc – as the first line of defence for any cold symptoms. 
  • Vitamin A – great for mucous membrane support, helping fight invasion of pathogens. Vitamin A works on key defence systems for the digestive tract, skin, and nasal passages. It may increase white blood cell activity, as well as working to improve vision and dry eyes. 
  • Echinacea and a quality multi-vitamin if your diet is poor. 
  • A good probiotic for gut immunity.
  • Vital Greens – an overall body builder and a great general tonic which is beneficial for most biological functions.

A note about salt
High salt intake (in the form of refined and processed foods and table salt) has been attributed to a number of leading health issues including hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and stroke. However, humans need salt to survive – it’s just a question of getting the right balance.

Why salt is important
Good quality sea salt contains many of the trace minerals that the body needs. It also helps to breakdown carbohydrates, assimilate food, and regulate the body’s electrolyte balance. Salt of the Earth is one of the most natural unprocessed salts available which has great balancing effect on the body's electrolytes and fluid metabolism.

Recommended daily dose
The daily dose depends on your current individual health status. We recommend seeking professional advice about what is right for you from one of our qualified experts. Use a good brand such as Salt of The Earth Celtic Sea Salt in cooking.

Cut down on salt if you:

  • Feel tense
  • Grind your teeth
  • Get too thirsty
  • Crave sweets suddenly
  • Feel tightness in your jaw 

Add a little more salt to your diet if you:

  • Have difficulty focusing
  • Feel run down
  • Get cold easily

Cooking tips:
The trick is to use salt in your cooking, not on your food as it dissolves better with heat. Add salt at the beginning of cooking for grains, half way through for vegetables and at the end (in the last 10 minutes) for beans and legumes. Avoid refined table salt and instead use only good quality, unrefined sea salt. The best quality sea salt will be slightly grey in colour, not white. We recommend Salt of the Earth Celtic Sea Salt and other similar high quality hand crafted salts.

Wellbeing & Lifestyle