Nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge explains how natural foods can give your body a boost this autumn to help fend off those seasonal illnesses.
Fortifying your body against illness
Colds and the flu are more common in the cooler months. To boost your immune system, select foods rich in vitamin A, E, C and D. Carrots, spinach, cabbage, kale, capsicum and oranges are excellent sources of vitamin A and C and all in season in autumn. Orange coloured vegetables and fruits are often loaded with vitamin A and this can be especially important in supporting the lining of our lungs and our lymph glands. You need a small amount of quality fat in your diet to make vitamin A work more effectively. We need good quality fats (olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts) for our bodies to fully absorb the benefits provided to us in vitamin A, E, and D to ward off colds and flu.
Eating to increase energy or mood
Choose whole, real foods that make you feel nourished, rather than artificial foods that can leave feeling toxic and sluggish. More specifically, choose foods that have the amino acid tryptophan in them. Tryptophan (with the right amout of vitamin B in your diet) will increase your serotonin levels. Hooray, more happy hormones! Tryptophan can also assist in the regulation of appetite and sleep patterns. Foods such as plain yogurt, dairy products, turkey, chicken, red meat, kale, soy beans and most fish contain excellent levels of tryptophan.
Lessons from our ancestors
It is no secret that our ancestors didn't grow up eating packaged, processed foods like sugary breakfast bars, doorstopper sized banana bread, and sweetened juices and soda. They ate 100 percent unprocessed foods with minimal sugar. Their diet was two thirds plant food including fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and the rest came from meat and fish. It is important to note that whilst the caveman only lived until about 18, they would usually die from viruses and bacteria, unlike our generation which are dying from diet-controlled diseases like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamins essential ingredients or a marketing gimmick?
There is plenty of readily available positive research on common supplements such as fish oils, vitamin D, vitamin B12 sublingual administration, vitamin C, probiotics and glucosamine to name a few. One example of research into vitamins and alternative therapies is that of The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in NYC, one of the world's top cancer research hospitals. In their Complimentary Therapies Centre they incorporate nutritional therapies including extensive research and testing with vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Examples like this show that the medical fraternity takes alternative methods (including the use of vitamins) seriously.
The question of alcohol
As a modern day nutritionist, wine is a yes, but in moderation or it could turn into a double edged sword. Some studies reveal red wine can ward off colds and viruses due its rich resveratrol content, which is a powerful antioxidant. But too much can lead to numerous health problems for many individuals, such as pregnant women and women at risk of breast cancer (alcohol raises the risk of breast cancer). To gain the benefits of a glass of wine, choose a glass of red and enjoy it with dinner.
Libido boosting foods
By cleaning up your diet with whole foods which are rich in vitamins and enzymes and giving yourself a mild cleanse, your libido will increase naturally. When you eat clean and feel light, you should feel physically and mentally happier. Many women come to my practice seeking help to lose weight, however, I remind them to not let that be a priority. When you eat well, your level of energy, mental clarity and hormones will come back to a place of homeostasis. And guess what? Your libido returns. You will have eaten yourself sexy, not starved yourself sexy!
Cleansing after the summer party season
Extreme detoxes do not work well in the long term for any individual. Detoxing usually is associated with starving, juicing and going without. After the 'party behaviour' and silly season are over, it's worth giving your body a little rest. You can do this alone or with the guidance of a nutritionist. I like to use whole foods, eliminate processed and liver-burdening foods and advocate food combing principles which means you eat the right foods in a combination that causes your body to reap maximum effect. By giving your liver and digestive system a break, we restore our metabolic rate and energy levels.
A word on antioxidants
Antioxidant-rich foods are wonderful for our immune systems and for ageing gracefully. There is a lot of evidence-based research on the benefits of these foods in terms of disease prevention. Some of the delicious foods that are high in antioxidants include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, artichokes, walnuts, cranberries, spinach, and sweet potatoes. If you are eating a whole food diet with variety at each meal, and you already healthy, your food should supply the right amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Michele Chevalley Hedge's expert advice for women
1. Eat as cleanly as possible: If you can eat 75 per cent of your diet in unpackaged, unprocessed, whole foods, you are on your way to increased vitality.
2. Be aware of hidden sugars: By reducing the amount of sugars from your diet you can balance your blood sugar and therefore reduce weight, brain fog, and mood swings.
3. Twice a year, cleanse and nourish your body: Give your digestive system and liver a clean-out, rest, realise what it is like to be in a place of optimum health, then go back to living in moderation and enjoy food!
Michele Chevalley Hedge is an accredited nutritionist and the author of many articles regarding healthy living. Michele has a particular interest in women's wellbeing and is the proprietor of A Healthy View in Mosman, Sydney.
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