With the current global health crisis and flu season looming, ensuring optimum health and wellness for the whole community has never been more important. A strong immune system is the best defence against illness.
According to Jennifer May – the renowned nutritionist, author and wellness speaker – a healthy diet (along with good sleep and regular exercise) is the number one way to boost immunity.
We spoke to Jennifer about other ways to maximise health and wellness during times like these.
Do you know any foods that are particularly good for skin? A lot of us were breaking out in isolation, and still are!
The truth is there are many essential nutrients, however the nutrients below are particularly important. Focus on obtaining healthy sources of these key nutrients and you may just cheat your way into that student discount after all...
Foods with a high silica content – cucumber, celery, apple strawberry oats and mangos.
What silica does – it strengthens connective tissues.
How to get more silica into your diet – enjoy a smoothie of above ingredients, try an oatmeal face mask, eat bircher (oats soaked overnight with grated apple and cinnamon).
Signs you need more silica - weak nails, thin or dry hair.
Foods with a high chlorophyll content – green vegetables, spirulina, chlorella
What chlorophyll does – what makes plants green (considered to be "plant blood", a natural multi-mineral source, improves oxygen delivery and circulation, a natural laxative
Remember – you need to do a number two daily for good skin. Your skin will never be healthy until you eliminate frequently and effectively. Otherwise, you will detox through the skin causing dryness, itching, inflammation and pimples.
Probiotics have stacks of evidence to prove their benefits on overall health by improving, rebuilding and protecting the most important system in our body: the digestive system. In my practice, I've had the best success with treating severe skin conditions when patients have completed my gut healing program. Probiotics are a big part of that.
My favourite homemade skin therapy regime is:
1. Start the day with a glass of fresh lemon juice mixed with water or chilled green tea, take a good quality probiotic at this time.
2. Follow this with a smoothie such as the green breakfast smoothie. I also like to add a serve of Acai berries for an additional antioxidant boost. Antioxidants help to prevent cells from early aging.
3. Ensure plenty of healthy fats throughout the day by including avocado, raw nuts and seeds, olives, extra virgin olive oil etc in meals and snacks.
4. Consider adding gut healthy foods such as fermented veggies into your daily regime for a natural source of pre and probiotics – I love the SuperKraut by Peace Love and Vegetables.
5. Drink two litres of water minimum every day. Add cucumber slices lemon or lime juice for additional minerals and antioxidants.
6. Eat your greens. Aim for six handfuls every day for a natural chlorophyll boost.
7. Try a face mask of oats soaked in water. If you are sensitive to oats, try quinoa flakes.
8. Try moisturising with coconut oil – no chemicals, fragrances or unnecessary chemicals. Great value for money too!
9. Finally be chemical aware – your skin is your largest organ and actively absorbs almost everything it comes into contact with. If you wouldn't eat what's in your skin care, you probably shouldn't be using it.
10. An early night or a nap whenever possible, good relaxation, happiness and laughter with friends – your natural beautifier.
What are the benefits of consuming hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds are one of the most easily digestible seeds and therefore the seed that is most able to provide a nutritional benefit. Benefits of seeds (most) include: protein, zinc, calcium, essential fatty acids (good fats), fibre and iron. Many seeds require prior grinding in order to be able to offer nutritional benefits. Hemp seeds, however, almost melt in your mouth – they can be consumed raw and do not need to be ground. This makes them easy, effective and nutritious.
What is your personal favourite medicinal food for this season?
I can't choose one as I have two of equal importance – garlic and mushrooms (which just happen to be delicious together). Both foods have been demonstrated to boost white blood cell production, both are anti-inflammatory and can assist in improving immune surveillance. Garlic also assists in lowering blood pressure (important during times of stress), it can assist in reducing harmful cholesterol and acts as an antioxidant. I often prescribe 'garlic tea' to my patients when suffering sore throats or colds. It can take away a mild sore throat instantly whilst also reducing mild fever and supporting recovery by enhancing immunity.
Do you have a wintery recipe you could share with us?
I have my healthy, high fibre, vegetarian lasagne here and a delicious immune boosting, anti-inflammatory hot chocolate recipe (see below) which I have also included some points around.
Immune boosting, anti-inflammatory hot chocolate recipe
This recipe contains several therapeutic foods which are well documented for their anti-inflammatory, mood-boosting and health-promoting effects.
For example, cacao is a rich source of magnesium (supporting mood, bowel health, muscle relaxation and reducing sugar cravings) and polyphenols (natural appetite control, blood sugar balancer, improves growth of healthy bacteria). Cacao is also a medicinal food shown to enhance dopamine and serotonin release – the feel-good hormones. Cacao helps to open up airways and blood vessels, leading to improved focus, memory, mood and energy in a short space of time. Cacao is also a source of iron – one of the reasons us ladies love a bar of chocolate at that time of the month.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory food, a natural antimicrobial (it kills certain bacteria and yeasts) and is a well-studied mood booster. This study compared turmeric extract to fluoxetine (one of the highest-selling antidepressants of all time) for treatment of major depressive disorder.
Astoundingly, whilst the fluoxetine was effective in 64.7% of patients, the turmeric extract was also found to be effective in 62.5% of patients. There was also a significant improvement found when turmeric extract was combined with the fluoxetine. This is incredible research into the powerful effects of simple nutrition. We can all use a little extra happiness right now, and something as simple as a turmeric infused hot chocolate can help us get there.
1.5 cups Califia Farms Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk
2 Tbsp raw cacao or organic cocoa (for magnesium, polyphenols and extra happy hormone support)
2 tsp maple syrup or raw honey (for sweetness with added minerals)
1 tsp cinnamon (anti-inflammatory and assists with balancing blood sugar)
1.5 tsp turmeric (anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and mood boosting)
A pinch black pepper (helps with better absorption of turmeric)
Tiny pinch of good quality salt such as himalayan rock salt or celtic sea salt (improves the richness of taste whilst also adding important electrolytes)
1-2 tsp coconut oil (adds MCT oils which are quickly converted to energy on a cellular level. Also contains lauric and caprylic acids which have an antimicrobial effect, killing nasty bacteria and yeast. It also makes it taste more creamy and delicious)
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and then add to a saucepan over low to medium heat. Continue to whisk to allow a gentle foam to develop. Allow to warm to your desired heat. Serve topped with a light dash of cacao/cocoa.
Tip: If you have a sweet tooth, then try sprinkling 1/4 of a tsp of sugar over the top of the drink once poured. This way, you drink a small amount of sweet liquid with every mouthful which can make the drink feel more heavily sweetened than it is. This trick also works for children.
For particularly sugar-addicted kids (or adults) as a rule of thumb, start with a sweetened recipe to gain 'trust' in the recipe. Then gradually reduce the sugar each time you make it until you find the lowest level that is tolerated. This often results in enjoying a much lower level of sweetness in just days to weeks.