Supercharge your health

Winter is here in its full glory. The whole country is gripped by bitterly cold weather and getting up in the mornings is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

Whether you like winter or not, for many of us, the season is synonymous with the misery of colds and flu. As soon as the temperature drops, the sneezing and coughing starts. Though many of us have become resigned to our yearly fate, it does not have to be that way. Your best weapon against colds and flu is is a strong immune system. Start supercharging your body's internal army with powerful nutrients today, so it can take care of you properly.

Boost your intake of fruit and vegetables. At the best of times, most of us don't reach our daily target of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables. However, our bodies need those vitamins, minerals, powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients now more than ever to stay healthy. Nature has cleverly gifted us with citrus fruit in winter that are bursting with infection-fighting vitamin C. As our bodies don't produce this vitamin naturally, it's very important to fuel up on vitamin C-rich foods daily. Go for oranges, minneolas, grapefruit and naartjies. You can also opt for guavas and kiwis - they are crammed with Vitamin C.

Up your veggie-intake by enjoying a bowl of chunky vegetable soup every day. Another great winter veggie is pumpkin. Pumpkin and butternut are brimming with immune-boosting betacarotene (which is responsible for their lovely bright colours) as well as the antioxidant lycopene. Also opt for white and green veggies like leeks, onions, garlic and chives - they are rich in allyl sulphides, which increase the production of enzymes to boost the immune system.

Increase your intake of whole grains (mealies, brown rice, rolled oats, wholegrain cereals and breads), as they are all rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients; and eat yoghurt, a fantastic source of probiotic cultures ("good bacteria" which prevent infections by fighting off the "bad bacteria" in your body).

Spicy foods will not only warm you up from the inside, but the chilli, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and cloves will also strenghten your immune system with their strong anti-inflammatory properties, while improving circulation.

Finally, make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water (to flush out toxins and keep hydrated), consider taking a good multi-vitamin, wash your hands regularly, and get some exercise - a daily walk in the crisp winter air will help to keep you warm and energised, while keeping the kilos off.

- (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, May 2011)

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