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Four ways to boost your gut health this winter

As the cooler months approach, it's not uncommon for us to seek out warmth and comfort from food (4 cheese gnocchi anyone? 🙏) Comfort foods aside, balance is key and we all know how important it is to providing our body with the nutrients it needs to stay well and healthy and protect ourselves from pesky germs.

You may be surprised to know, but roughly 70% of your immune system is found in your gut! Our gut and immune system are like two peaches in a pod, which is why we want to take extra good care of our gut health during the chilly season.

During Winter, there are some key steps that we can follow to make sure we give our immune system the best chance of fighting off nasties (cold and flu - stay away pls!).

Here are a Dietitian’s top tips to boost your gut health during the colder months.

1. Complex Carbs, Whole Grains and Legumes

By selecting wholegrain and wholemeal breakfast cereals, breads, pastas and rice, you are treating your body with the energy that it needs to stay warm (which you need more of when the temperature drops!) By opting for the grainy-er, less processed carbohydrates, you are more likely to reach your daily fibre requirements (25-30g/day) and stay satiated between meals. Try adding some new grains or legumes to your winter menu by making some Mexican dishes based on beans or making a veg and barley soup!

2. Fresh Produce - Vegetables, Fruit, Herbs & Spices

By including more colour by way of veggies and fruit, into your meals, you are providing your gut with an array of Immune system-protecting compounds called AntiOxidants and Phytochemicals. These guys are biologically active compounds whose role is to fight against cell damage and protect the immune system from infection/illness. Some of the most powerful antioxidant vitamins include Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Carotenoids. Need a little extra vitamin C? Try including more citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries and capsicum into your winter cooking. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in avocado, almonds and sunflower seeds. Carotenoids are important for immune system health and for healthy vision and can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins. Don't forget to add spices for some flavour and heat this winter (pass the chilli flakes please!).

3. Healthy Fats

By adding in healthy fats found in plant oils, nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish, you are giving your gut the best chance of obtaining important fats such as Omega-3 fats as well as aiding the absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins. One vitamin that we may receive less of during the Winter months is Vitamin D a.k.a our ‘Sunshine’ vitamin. With less time spent in the sun, it may be worthwhile paying attention to some dietary sources of Vitamin D - adding in a few serves each week of oily fish, eggs and sun-exposed mushrooms can help with making sure vitamin D levels are intact which aids in protecting the immune system.

4. Pre- and Pro- biotic foods and drinks

As a quick refresher - Probiotics are the live gut bugs that provide health benefits to humans that consume them and Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that provide nourishment for Probiotic bacteria. One of the ways that Probiotics can aid with obtaining and maintaining a robust immune system is by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. In order for Probiotic bacteria to do their thing, they need fuel - just like we do - in order to perform at their best. If you are wondering how to keep the good gut bugs nourished, you have come to the right place. By eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds you will be doing wonders for those gut bugs that are keeping out the bad bacteria. Try dabbling in cooking with onion, leek and garlic and adding in more plant-based protein dishes based on lentils, beans or chickpeas.

 

Of course, saving the best til’ last - a delicious way you can get your dose of Prebiotic fibre is from enjoying a packet of ya fave FUNDAY sweets (Sour Peach hearts anyone?!).

Written by Daena Ryan

Dietitian & Nutritionist

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