Optimal winter health

Winter’s short days can make us feel lethargic and a little depressed; the long hours spent indoors hibernating on the couch can have a major impact on our overall wellbeing. To avoid the effects of old man winter, fight your hibernating instincts by embracing the season, while taking the necessary precautions to be healthy. To help you get there, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) has these five tips for natural winter wellness.

Opt for healthy comfort food

In winter, we crave simple carbs because they are rich in tryptophan, causing our feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine to temporarily increase. These foods, which are typically refined and have little nutritional value, cause a quick increase in our blood sugar followed by a quick decrease causing us to crave more. To avoid this vicious cycle while satisfying your cravings, opt for more complex carbs including oatmeal, legumes, soups and stews.

Shake it up and sleep it off

When it comes to exercise, don’t let winter be an excuse. Develop a well-rounded fitness routine that includes cardio and strength training. Also, give yourself plenty of rest time. Restful slumber helps fight depression and eliminates extra amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. Adequate amounts of exercise and sleep should be non-negotiable in maintaining a healthy lifestyle this winter.

Dose up on vitamins and minerals

Iron, zinc and vitamin C are key to a healthy immune system that will ward off cold and flu viruses. Foods rich in these nutrients include dark, leafy greens, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, lean red meats and pumpkin seeds. Taking a daily multivitamin is a great insurance policy to ensure you are getting your required daily intake of essential minerals and vitamins.

Go for garlic

The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic help increase the potency of two important cells of the immune system: T-lymphocytes and macrophages. These are essential to help battle the flu and colds. Opt for odourless capsules if you want to avoid the strong taste of garlic.

Use coconut oil

As the temperature continues to drop, you have probably noticed the negative effects on your skin as it becomes dry, flaky and itchy. Walking down the aisles of the store, it’s quickly apparent that the choices of lotions and potions to stop dry skin are endless, but which product should you choose? There’s one superfood solution that is inexpensive, works wonders, and will perhaps make you think you’re on a tropical island: coconut oil is the perfect product to help ward off the attacks of Canada’s harsh winters. “Coconut oil has increasingly gained popularity in Canada, and for good reasons. Its multiple uses are impressive, but most importantly, it is a truly remarkable skincare product,” says Helen Long, president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). “It is a known fact that winter can wreak havoc on the skin. Adding coconut oil to your skincare routine is a particularly good way of protecting yourself against the damages of bitterly cold winds and dry indoor conditions.”

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which allows it to retain the moisture content of the skin while helping it to look and feel silky smooth. It also has high quantities of vitamin E, an essential nutrient for healthy skin growth, repair and the prevention of premature aging. Coconut oil is also rich in many proteins that contribute to cellular health and tissue repair. CHFA recommends that you winter-proof your skin with coconut oil by using it in the following ways:

Moisturizer: simply rub a small amount of coconut oil wherever you have dry or cracked skin. Your skin will absorb the oil quickly, plus it smells wonderful.

Exfoliant: making your own natural exfoliant by mixing coconut oil with natural exfoliating substances like sea salt or sugar is a great way to remove dead cells that accumulate on your skin throughout the winter.

Lip balm: applying chemical products on your lips is a sure way to ingest potentially harmful substances. Substitute your chemical lip balm for coconut oil and keep your lips moist and protected throughout the winter.

Source: Canadian Health Food Association The Canadian Health Food Association is Canada’s largest trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products. Its members include manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and importers of natural and organic products. www.chfa.ca

photo © Teresa Kasprzycka

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