By Melanie Wharton
As winter approaches and Jack Frost runs an icy, sinister index finger up your inside leg, it's time to think about how to stay on top form.
Why? Because there's nothing worse than being in bed with man flu looking at your mates' Instagrams of that usually-decidedly-average-at-best local beachie doing the 6ft perfect pits thing.
Remember that epic winter when you didn’t miss a single epic session (or five) through flu, gastro, colds? No, neither do we.
With prevention being far better than cure, the first thing is to focus on in the quest for virus-free vitality is your gut. Particularly the bacteria in your gut.
The health of the bugs in your gut has a direct impact on your health; it has been suggested that around 70% of your immune system is situated here.
So how do you get great gut bacteria, and thus be that sickeningly healthy scoundrel 'gramming the day of days?
(above) When your grandchildren ask, 'Where were you for the Hercules swell of 2014 Grandad?'
'In bed with man flu, watching Game of Thrones' will be the wrong answer...
Prebiotics are food for the gut bacteria, helping create the right environment for them to flourish. Prebiotic rich foods include:
Raw or cooked onions, raw garlic and leeks,
Raw chicory root
Raw Jerusalem artichokes
Raw dandelion greens
Now, if a bowl of raw dandelion greens on a grim December morning seems like an unlikely proposition, then make your own hummus! It's dead easy, and it's raw garlic for days!
Probiotics usually come in capsules or powders and contain different strains of bacteria that exist naturally in your gut, they can be used to boost or replace levels of your own natural gut bacteria. But better than capsules, is actual yummy food. Like:
Kefir, a bit like yoghurt
Kimchi, spicy pickled veg
Tempeh, fermented soya…
Pickled fruit and veg, (in brine not vinegar and it must be unpasteurised)
In summary, a tempeh pitta with spinach, red onions & spicy hummus, washed down with a kombucha is a winter lunch of champions...
(above: If you need veg/shred inspiration, look no further than Mr Fergal Smith)
Are You Bored of Being Told to Eat Less Sugar?
No? Great! Because you need to limit the sugar in your diet to optimise your immune system.
Sugar is an ‘anti-nutrient’ a food negatively affects the availability of vitamins and minerals that you’ve consumed. A metabolic bummer, thus.
Eat loads of green leafy veggies and a wide variety of other vegetables, they are a good source of fibre which is very important for gut health, contain heaps of important vitamins and boost general good health. Veggies should be one of the cornerstones of a healthy diet, if you don't eat loads of veggies everyday, you don't have a healthy diet.
Eat a Rainbow
Yeah I know, you got told that as a kid, or you hear it all the time. Honestly, it is the best way to remember what to eat in terms of veggies. Eat a variety of everything that you can get your hands on, including fruit too, although not more than two pieces of fruit a day as a general rule, because of the sugar content.
Above all, enjoy the new healthier-eating you. Have fun exploring new tastes, textures and recipes. Broaden your gastronomic horizons. Do it with a smile, don't do it fraught with food anxiety.
And remember: You don't have to Instagram every time you eat kale... Every other will do just fine.