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How to keep the winter bugs at bay

How to keep the winter bugs at bay

We have all learnt to wash our hands to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses, but now we’re out and above interacting with people again, the coughs and colds will be doing the rounds!

Making small changes to the way we eat can have a positive impact on our immune system and allow our bodies to fight off ills and chills more quickly.

While there’s a lot of talk about vitamin C and zinc over the colder months, to boost the immune system, the health of our gut and its impact on immunity doesn’t get as much air time  as it should.

A healthy gut is an essential part of a strong immune system and keeping the 2kg-3kg of bacteria that live inside your gut happy is a great place to start. The bacteria in your gut feed on fibre, so getting enough each day is a way to keep the good bacteria happy and able to support you to keep well. Sadly, most of us aren’t getting enough fibre, averaging only 20g a day when women need at least 28g and men 38g.

There are many foods that are packed with fibre, but a good goal is to focus on eating enough fruit and veg every day (including the weekend), as there are so many benefits all round!

Your challenge:  Have two servings of fruit and three+ servings of veggies EVERY DAY, including the weekends. Plus, this month, try at least two new foods and drinks that support your gut health.

FEED YOUR GUT:

1 The first part of your challenge this month is to have two servings of fruit and at least three (ideally more) servings of veggies a day.

Find out more on serving sizes here.

Fruit and veggies are a great source of fibre, which helps keep your gut bacteria happy.  These bacteria digest fibre to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which reduce inflammation and can affect how the immune system works. Acetate, the main SCFA produced by gut bacteria, reduces gut permeability (leaky gut). Butyrate, another SCFA, reduces inflammation, improves the movement of food through the gut and may help protect against colon cancer.

Check out all how to get enough fibre here:

Watch our videos to learn how to get enough fibre and the three types of fibre you need for better health.

Make it happen:

  • Planning is the key to success. Do a rough plan of what you might eat for a week and see how you can be sure to meet your fruit and veggie targets each day. Need a meal planning tool? Check out our meal planner and shopping list tool, or why not check out this awesome ‘It’s a beautiful day’ planner to help you get organised.
  • Keep a box of chopped veggies, such as carrot sticks, cucumber and capsicum (or whatever is in season), in the front of your fridge so it’s the first thing you see when you open the fridge door. Not only is this great for a snack, but it makes lunch box prep much quicker. Top it up every few days. To keep the veggies fresh for longer, pop a piece of damp paper towel on top of the veggies.
  • Add veggies to your breakfast. If you have time in the morning for eggs, why not add some spinach, tomatoes or mushrooms on the side. No time in the week? Try it at the weekend or on your days off. If you have smoothies for breakfast or snacks, try ones with veggies added like this carrot cake smoothie bowl, red velvet smoothie and our green hulk smoothie bowl
  • Make a batch of vegetable soup at the weekend and keep it in the fridge for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack. We have lots of yummy soup recipes.
  • Add plenty of veggies to your lunch, ideally a handful or two. Check out these healthy, veg-packed lunch ideas
  • At night, aim to have half your plate packed with non-starchy veggies like this. All our recipes aim to include at least two vegetable serves, so if you are looking for inspiration head here 
  • Keep a fruit bowl on the bench or somewhere in sight to remind you to have your two serves a day.

2 The second part of your challenge, is to try at least two new foods or drinks this month, to support a healthy gut

Here are some ideas to try:

Fermented foods are an easy way to increase the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and yoghurt have all been shown to contain bacteria and yeasts that can help reduce inflammation and improve gut bacteria growth. Start off with a small amount, 1-2 tablespoons daily, and increase over time. Find more advice on those here.

Want to learn more? Here are other ways to support your gut health to improve your immunity.

Keen to do even more to support your immune system?

While keeping your gut healthy is a very important step, there are lots of other ways to support your immune system including:

First published: May 2021

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