This time of year always reminds me of Friday. You know what I mean – even though Friday is allegedly part of the work week, it’s usually pointless to try and start a new project, get ahold of someone or expect to hear back on anything.
People may be at work but their heads are already into the weekend. The holidays are like six weeks of Fridays.
Planning travel, meals and parties, cooking, baking and gift shopping, distract most of us from day-to-day priorities we pay attention to the rest of the year – including taking care of ourselves.
Fortunately, there are natural and inexpensive ways to help fight off winter colds and flu, reduce stress and anxiety and give us added energy to cope with the stresses of the season.
A little preplanning can stock the shelves with foods, herbs and spices that are both tasty and good for the immune and nervous systems.
fighting colds and flu
Vitamin C is a great way to help your immune system prevent or fight off winter colds and flu.
Many herbs and winter vegetables are actually higher in Vitamin C than the fruits we rely on in summer.
According to NutritionData.com, bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, dill weed and rose hips all have more Vitamin C than any citrus fruit except lemons.
So do red and green bell peppers, vegetable-juice cocktail and the mega-C fruit of the Barbados Cherry (also known as Acerola), a primary ingredient in plant-derived Vitamin C supplements.
A hearty soup or stew that includes winter vegetables, onions and garlic (both antioxidants) is a tasty and satisfying way to boost your immune system. Make a big pot and divide it between the fridge and freezer for times when you need a quick, healthy meal.
Rose hips are found in many herb-tea blends, as a bulk herb or in your garden.
The “hips” are the globular seed pods left when the rose petals fall off. Once they’ve turned red, they can be used fresh or dried to make a tart tea (four to five hips per cup if whole, two teaspoons chopped).
They’re also high in vitamins A, D and E and flavinoids (antioxidants).
Dill weed makes a wonderful seasoning for fish, eggs, potatoes and root vegetables. You also find it in soup, salad dressing and herbed-cheese recipes.
It’s an excellent digestive aid and has calming properties, too.
Brazilians drink Acerola juice like we do orange juice, but it’s hundreds of times higher in Vitamin C.
The plant is grown here in San Diego and Riverside counties in the warmer, frost-free regions.
Check your local health food store or online retailers for juice, dried fruit or Acerola-based supplements.
Increase energy, decrease headaches and tension
When rushed we tend to rely on caffeine and sugar for short-term energy boosts. It’s particularly easy to fall prey when surrounded by holiday sweets. There are more wholesome ways to give the body energy, though.
Unsalted nuts contain a good balance of protein and complex carbohydrates that give the body fuel without the rush/tiredness cycle sugar can induce.
Try carrying small bags of nuts, or a “trail mix” of your favorite nuts and a little dried fruit, for energy on the go.
If family obligations or trips to the mall induce headaches, eat more carrots. The phytonutrients in two cups/day of raw or freshly juiced carrots can reduce the inflammation in your brain’s blood vessels up to 70 percent.
Don’t rely on prepackaged carrot juice, as any juice more than three days old has pretty much turned to sugar and the enzymes and nutrients are gone.
For stress and tension try chamomile or peppermint tea, or “Tension Tamer” from Celestial Seasonings. The latter has a very tasty blend of herbs that includes calmatives and digestives that soothe both nerves and upset stomachs.
Lavender is another calming herb that you can use in a bath, sachet or by putting essential oil on pulse points.
Work in some time for exercise, even if it’s just a walk or some light stretching. Tension builds up in the muscles and can be released through movement.
Or…maybe the current economic downturn is a good time to consider doing less for the holidays. If we spend less, rush less and think more about what really matters in our lives, perhaps we won’t need to work so hard to stay calm and healthy.
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