It's the middle of winter and we are seeking ways to keep warm, feel good and stay healthy. We asked clinical nutritionist and recipe developer, Alexandra King, a few questions to lead us down the virtuous path of health. She has also shared a recipe for one of her favourite winter warmers. Read the advice and stay for the soup. Happy cooking!
What does your day on a plate look like in winter? How does this differ from summer?
Throughout winter I make a conscious effort to eat foods that are warming and easy to digest, this means slow cooked meals that provide warmth through temperature and spice. In summer when the days are warmer, I prefer smoothies and salads, always!
Most of the time I prefer a savoury breakfast over something sweet. This varies daily but my go to in winter would be eggs on fresh sourdough with avocado, rocket and a homemade tomato, onion and garlic salsa. Some of my favourite winter main meals include slow cooked chicken curry with vegetables and rice, dahl with vegetables and rice, fish with steamed greens or my chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup.
I load my curries with herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom that provide warmth and immune support. Last but certainly not least, fresh crushed garlic gets added to almost every dish for both flavour and its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which are extremely beneficial for the immune system in winter.
A little tip when cooking with garlic - chop or crush it up and let it sit for 10 minutes before heating it. This time allows the allicin to activate - this is the compound in garlic that offers these therapeutic benefits.
Are there any particular nutrients and foods we should focus on consuming to support immunity?
Yes, most definitely. However, I can't answer this question without acknowledging the impact that sleep, stress and environmental toxins have on the immune system. It's always important to consider these factors too.
Food is an excellent way to support the immune system. There are certain nutrients that play an important role in supporting the immune system to function optimally. These nutrients are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium and iron.
Food sources of these nutrients:
Zinc: eggs, oysters, nuts and seeds
Vitamin C: strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, broccoli and capsicum
Vitamin D: mushrooms, wild caught salmon, sardines and egg yolk
Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna and sardines
Iron: organic liver and chicken, fish, lentils, beans and cooked spinach
Variety is important and so is the quality of produce. Where you can, opt for seasonal and organic produce as these will be the most nutrient dense options.
What other lifestyle changes do you encourage women to consider during the colder months?
- Prioritise sleep - aim for 8 hours each night. Without optimal sleep our immune response is compromised.
- Avoid storing and reheating food in plastic - make the switch to glass.
- Manage stress - do something for yourself each day, whether this be to take a walk and listen to a podcast or have a warm lavender bath at the end of the day.
- Get your daily dose of vitamin D through some sunshine!
- Stay warm and hydrated - herbal teas or warm water with lemon and ginger are great ways to keep up your fluid intake on the colder days.
Try Alexandra's Roast Cauliflower Soup
- 1 large cauliflower head, cut into florets
- 6 tbsp olive oil for cooking and frying
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 lemon (the juice of)
- 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp organic butter (optional)
- parsley to dress (optional)
1. Pre heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced, line 2 baking trays with baking paper and place the cauliflower florets evenly over the trays. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the trays in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway, or until the cauliflower is golden.
2. In a large pot over medium to high heat, add 3 tbsp olive oil, the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, roughly 4 minutes.
3. Add the cinnamon, cumin and cauliflower to the pot and stir well to coat the cauliflower with the spices.
4. Add the stock or broth to the pot and stir all the contents well. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the soup contents to a blender carefully (once cooled), season with salt and pepper, add in the lemon juice and butter (optional) and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your liking.
6. Serve with crispy sourdough toast, garnish with parsley or have as is and enjoy!
Then give these other immune-friendly winter warmers a go: