In the first of two blog posts, nutrition and wellbeing coach Dr Rebecca Lightfoot looks at two of the core pillars that can help shape our resilience over the winter months, namely our physical and social wellbeing. Read more to learn about the potential benefits of practicing kindness, seasonal supplements, and dietary changes and give yourself that extra boost during the winter months that so many people find difficult.
Winter brings short days, and lower temperatures so our bodies naturally need more sleep. Sleep deprivation causes immune system compromise and makes us more susceptible to infections. Begin your wind-down routine and head to bed 30 minutes earlier to take significant steps towards better winter health. Tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, fish, wholegrains and spinach support our body's ability to produce mood-lifting serotonin and sleep-enhancing melatonin – which help us create a balanced wake-sleep cycle.
Build healthy, satisfying proteins into your winter cooking, not just carbohydrate-laden, tummy fillers. Think chilli con carne, hearty stews and casseroles, curries, Bolognese, or fish traybakes. Rich sources of protein keep us fuller for longer, balances our blood sugars and releases nutrients slowly.
If you can't get all your vitamins from food, look to seasonal supplements such as Vitamin D, 400IU daily for a robust immune system, Omega 3 Fish Oils help to decrease inflammation, moisturise the skin and support mood and mental function. Probiotics support our healthy gut bacteria which are crucial for a strong immune system, efficient digestion, and production of many of the hormones responsible for feeling positive.
Wrap up and get outside – even if it's just for 10-20 minutes. Outdoor exercise wakes up our body and metabolism to manage the colder temperatures and dressing in layers allows you to manage your body temperature more effectively. The endorphin buzz you get will help your energy levels and mood. If you really can't face getting outside, check out YouTube for some great online workouts from gentle yoga to sweaty HIIT sessions.
Increase Fruit and Vegetables
Make a significant effort to pack the fruit and (particularly) vegetables into those balanced meals. This is harder in winter when we don't have the farmers markets or as much garden produce to hand but you can buy seasonal autumnal fruits or reach for frozen berries, and use vegetables to roast or bake, like root vegetables and winter squashes, and enhance those dishes with fresh greens to add more colour. More colours mean a greater breadth of vitamins and minerals.
We lose a pint of water every day just through breathing in the winter! Cold weather also alters our thirst triggers, so we don't recognise when we need to drink. Sweating under lots of layers also dehydrates us more easily, never mind having the heating on full blast! Maintain the goal of 6-8 glasses of water each day to help with hydration and temperature regulation and keep your skin looking young, fresh and healthy.
Aim to do something with someone else at least once a week. Long nights and cold evenings when we draw the curtains at 4pm may feel like lovely cosy moments, but the chances of feeling isolated in winter significantly increases. Try to balance your cosy rest and self-care evenings with a little social interaction.
Pay it Forward
Think of the people in your life, or those who live around you. How could you make them feel 'looked after' this winter? Maybe it's an elderly neighbour you could pop over to check in on or someone you know is housebound and could do with a pint of milk. Kindness resonates with an energy in our brains at a frequency perfect for topping up our own wellbeing too.
About the author:
Dr Rebecca Lightfoot (Becca)
Nutrition and Wellbeing Coach at Tip the Balance - Natural Nutrition & Wellbeing Private Nutrition & Wellbeing Practice.
Corporate / Organisational Training, Coaching & Support for Wellbeing in the Workplace.
Nordic Walk Instructor, Green Wellbeing Advocate & Ambassador for Natural Health Products.
Find more about Tip The Balance and Rebecca's work here: TiptheBalance