Food & Drink for Winter Health and Wellbeing

Many people find life more challenging during the winter months. The combination of colder weather and shorter daylight hours can make it more difficult to spend time outside. This might especially be the case if you are vulnerable. Food and drink can help improve your health and wellbeing during winter.

Different factors such as age, income, disability and existing health conditions can make us more vulnerable during winter. The good news is there are things we can do to help stay healthy until the warmer spring months arrive. A big part of that is our diet, because the food and drinks we consume throughout winter can make a difference to how we feel.

Here some food and drinks that can be particularly beneficial:

Hot drinks

Any kind of hot tea is very useful for warming you up during the colder months. Hot drinks can also help you to stay hydrated in the same way that glasses of water can. Certain types of tea can also have useful additional benefits.

Ginger tea contains the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger root which can help the symptoms of a cold or flu. Many people also choose to infuse their tea. Try slices of fresh citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons for a healthy boost of vitamin C.

Green tea contains antioxidants that help our immune system in addition to anti-inflammatory properties. Helping us stay warm, hydrated and better equipped to combat colds and winter viruses.

Five portions of fruit and vegetables

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day is not as hard as it might sound. The evidence strongly suggests that those who eat five portions of fresh, tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables daily are at lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, strokes and certain cancers.

Fresh fruit and berries form an important part of a healthy, balanced diet at any time of the year. However, during winter they can play an important role in ensuring we get the vitamins we need. These vitamins can help to help prevent colds and viruses. If we do catch them, they can help to help reduce their severity. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and blueberries are rich in antioxidants, both great for the immune system.

As a general rule all fresh and frozen fruits can be a key part of a healthy winter diet. If you decide to buy tinned fruits however, try to choose ones that are in natural unsweetened juice.

Porridge is an excellent warming way to start those cold winter mornings and a great way to boost your five-a-day. Packed full of wholegrains and soluble fibre, it can lower cholesterol and can easily be sweetened with your favourite fruit or berries as opposed to sugar or syrups.

Fresh vegetables, can also be a good source of vitamins, minerals and especially fibre which gives our digestive systems a welcome boost. Greens such as broccoli and spinach are also a good source of zinc which aids our immune system.

Vitamin D

Shorter, darker days mean less sunlight which can have an impact on mental health as well as physical health. It can also mean a drop in the levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium and phosphates in our bodies.

Foods that are rich in Vitamin D, such as fish, eggs and mushrooms as well as some spreads and cereals. These help to keep our vitamin D and protein levels up during the colder months.

Here are some other foods to try for winter health and wellbeing:

• Natural Greek yoghurt is rich in probiotics and protein and is a healthier option than sweetened alternatives.

• Dark chocolate in moderation is a far healthier alternative to milk chocolate when you feel like a treat.

• Wholegrain bread is a healthier alternative to white bread. It is high in fibre which helps prevent constipation and lowers the risk of many health conditions.

• Garlic has long been thought of as a natural remedy for colds. It is a proven part of a healthy balanced diet.

• Baked potatoes are a great substitution for chips and are a cheap, filling winter meal.

If you would like help and advice on weight loss and a healthy diet over the winter months, the NHS website has a wealth of help and resources.