As I sit here in my kitchen, looking out at the snow-capped mountains and sipping my new cocktail creation, I can’t help but feel grateful for the inspiration this week. I had plans Monday to meet up with a fellow holistic nutritionist and dear friend, however there was so much more on my mind as I frantically ran to meet her. I let loose all the stressors of the week, and as always, Kori listened intently only to reply “You have to slow down! Practice a grounding exercise in the mornings if this is how you feel and everything will begin to fall into place through-out your day. Tap into your inner goddess and pamper her!”(Kori’s famous words). As we continued to chat over lunch, Kori’s energy swept over me like a calming blanket and I let go of all the worries of the week as we sipped a warming pear and ginger cider together. My inspiration for a blog post this week had been lacking….until this lunch date with Kori and cider!
Its funny how life seems to unfold right as you need it to; all you have to do is slow down and let life happen on its own. By tapping into some calming, winter “me” time and becoming grounded, the creative juices began flowing, with a conversation just as warming as the cider we drank.
As two passionate Holistic Nutritionists, we instantly began thinking how to turn this invigorating drink, not only into something that tastes wonderful, but something that is nourishing as well. Winter is one of the toughest times of year for me. Not because I get sick, but because I have trouble connecting to the season. However, the longer I live in Canada and surround myself with people like Kori, I seem to get a bit better at embracing the shorter days, darker mornings, the snow that lasts for months, and knowing what foods to eat to balance my body. After our inspiring lunch, I was compelled to not only share this nourishing cocktail with you all, but write about thriving in winter; not surviving, but thriving! As a bonus, I have my very talented friend Katrina Demers of Like a Yogi sharing a revitalizing winter Surya Namaskara sequence with us (see video at the bottom of the post!!).
This nourishing, immunity-boosting pear cider is perfect for the holidays and the cold winter months. The fresh pear juice is rich in vitamin C, E and zinc, all antioxidants to help support the immune system and help rid the body of free radicals. The beauty of the addition of cinnamon is that it helps regulate blood sugar and the pure pear juice is quite high in natural sugar, so its the perfect pairing (no pun intended!). Oh, how I love the honey! The benefits are endless! Honey contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties and is said to aid digestion and boost immunity. Honey also contains propolis: a natural resin that has been shown to slow down the reproduction of some viruses. The cayenne helps stimulate circulation for a cold day, increasing blood and oxygen transport, thus aiding in the removal of toxins. Cayenne also stimulates the production of endorphins and raises metabolism: exactly what we need in the winter months. I consider ginger a superfood and it’s one of the most widely used medicinal herbs on the planet. Ginger helps nausea, can destroy certain bacteria, aids circulation, and promotes healing of inflammation. I got a bit crazy and added a touch of liquid chlorophyll to this concoction as well! Not only does it give the cider a vibrant green flash of colour (see the pic of me holding the cup at the top!), but it doesn’t alter the taste yet adds a punch of nutritional benefits! Chlorophyll is the life force of plants and by drinking chlorophyll or eating green vegetables, we are directly obtaining that energy while getting all the benefits it provides: intestinal nourishment, soothing effect on mucous membranes, and a detoxifying effect on the blood and liver to name just a few.
“Thriving in Winter”
In the winter months, especially in these northern parts, it’s sometimes hard to feel a springiness in our step. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could achieve that balanced, whole-body well-being that leaves us feeling light, energetic, and even appreciative of the falling snow and the calmness it brings? I believe we can.
EMBRACE WINTER, STRIVING FOR BALANCE INSIDE AND OUT
Ahhh…the hardest part for this Alabama girl. Striving for an internal state of balance in the mind and body during these dark days can be difficult but is all part of becoming grounded and attuned to the season…so I have learned over the years! When we can embrace the calming energy of winter and bring our energy inwards and downwards as winter dictates (hibernation!), we can then begin to harmonize our inner bodies with the challenging external environment of winter. When our digestion is working properly and our immune system is strong, it is then that we can walk through one of the toughest seasons with grace and liveliness. Reaching this balanced state of well-being inside and out is the key to thriving in winter.
- take time to rest for mental introspection
- listen to your body in that it may need to go inwards towards a conscious state of “hibernation” with a warming drink by the fire (pear cider anyone?!)
- nourish our bodies with warming foods to support the body’s need for heat and protection
- seek seasonal, grounding foods such as root vegetables and winter squashes
- Ancient systems like Ayurveda say winter is the season of “Yin”: the feminine. We can incorporate yin foods to mimic the yin state of winter such as dark and salty foods: fermented soy sauce, dark fermented black beans, bone broths with seaweed, or dark coloured medicinal mushrooms such as chaga.
By consuming these foods and taking in these activities we can then begin to embrace winter and become balanced with the season.
FOCUS ON GUT HEALTH TO SUPPORT IMMUNITY AND REDUCE INFLAMMATION
The gut is directly connected to our immunity: 80% of our immunity is in our gut and there are more neurotransmitters in our gut than our brain! Lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut causes inflammation and improper breakdown of foods, preventing extraction of nutrients from food. Without healthy bacteria to protect and support us, our bodies are at risk of developing any number of infectious illnesses. To promote gut health, we can do things such as
- eat fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso, and sauerkraut
- drink bone broths
- decrease consumption of sugar and processed foods
- eliminate any foods you have allergies or sensitivities too
- slow down when you eat and chew properly
I could take an entire blog post to rave about the importance of gut health and the benefits of fermented foods, but I’ll leave that for another time…
If you live in a place where the sun goes down early and rises late, as I do, an added supplement of Vitamin D3 will be quite helpful to combat seasonal depression. Our body makes vitamin D via the sun in contact with our skin, however, in the winter, when the sun isn’t as plentiful as the summer, our body needs a bit of a boost. Talk to your ND or MD if your unsure of what type is best for you.
Support the lymph system to help rid the body of toxins thus supporting the immune system by doing the following:
- Epsom salt baths
- Dry brushing
HEALTHY SLEEP WITH THE RHYTHM OF WINTER
Poor quality sleep hinders our body to repair itself at night. This is actually one of the most common causes of a weakened immune system!
- Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and rise with the sun, if possible.
- Turn off all electronics and TV at least one hour before bed.
- Begin your own bedtime ritual of winding down such as a bath with lavender essential oils and Epsom salts, an oil massage (great in dry climates to rehydrate the skin!), and reading .
- More suggestions here
DESTRESS: HEALTHY MIND, HEALTHY BODY
Stress directly weakens our immune system and has inflammatory effects on the body. Thoughts of anger, resentment, hatred and bitterness can also weaken immunity.
- Start a gratitude journal to note blessings and remind yourself of all the happiness and beauty present in your life. Or perhaps have a morning ritual in the car where you mindfully say what you are grateful for in your life
- Yoga (see below!)
- Not taking on too much and learning to say no
- Staying away from caffeine, alcohol, and sugar as these things make it more difficult for our body to handle stress
- Finding activities and exercises you enjoy to boost serotonin
FIGHT COLDS NATURALLY AT THE FIRST SIGN
If you do happen to become ill, fight an infection naturally and without antibiotics. Antiobiotics only treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. So by taking antibiotics for a cold or flu (both viral), instead of fighting the cold, you are only destroying your gut flora, which we learned above is needed for immunity!
- lots of pure, filtered water with lemon…fluids!
- oil of oregano
- andrographis – I like the brand “Ki” which contains ginger and zinc as well (I take these before I get on planes!)
- zinc (said to be more important than vit C for immunity!)
- vitamin C
- an immune support tincture like “Anti-Viral” by Echinamide is a great way to jump start your immune system. It includes the top immune boosters such as echinacea, lomatium, astragalus, reishi and liqorice. Not suitable during pregnancy; check with your ND to ensure there are no contraindications as there are potent herbs in this! “Anti-Cold” with echinacea and goldenseal is another lovely combination.
- hot baths with epsom salts to help flush out toxins; the steam will also help congestion
PROMOTE VITALITY AND CONNECT TO THE SEASON THROUGH YOGA
~ BY KATRINA DEMERS FROM LIKEAYOGI.COM
TOP 5 IMMUNE BOOSTING NUTRIENTS
Other than the ingredients in my immune-boosting cider, the following is a list of the top immune-boosting foods:
- fresh garlic and onions
- fibre to support digestion and gut health. Whole grains such as oats and barley also contain beta glycans which have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, also said to boost immunity and wound healing
- foods high in antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc)
- medicinal mushrooms such as reishi (again, an entire other post I promise I will get to!). These can be contraindicative with certain conditions or medications, so check with a knowledgable herbalist or your ND before taking.
- dark, leafy, green vegetables and other chlorophyll-containing foods or a liquid chlorophyll supplement (in my drink as an option, but worth mentioning again!)
TOP STRESSORS THAT WEAKEN YOUR IMMUNITY AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED
- food sensitivities and food allergies (see your ND to obtain iGg testing if your interested in finding out!)
- poor sleep
- sugar and artificial sweeteners
- processed foods
- chlorine and fluoride
- chemicals and toxins in everyday home and personal products; opt for chemical-free, all-natural products as much as possible
I hope this post inspires and guides you into moving through winter with a bit more vitality. What are your favorite nourishing winter activities and foods?!
- 3 cups fresh pear juice or store-bought organic, pure pear juice
- 2 Tablespoons of pure honey
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice*
- 2 cinnamon sticks, approximately 5 inches long each
- 2 stalks of rosemary, approximately 4 inches long each
- 1/4 teaspoon of true cinnamon
- 2 large pinches of cayenne (or to taste)
- 1 Tablespoon of chlorophyll (or more depending on your taste)
- Combine all ingredients, except for the chlorophyll, in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the chlorophyll and enjoy immediately or store in an air-tight container with the cinnamon sticks and rosemary for up to 3 days. Garnish with extra rosemary, a cinnamon stick, a thin slice of pear, or a piece of candied ginger for a holiday treat!
- I prefer to let the cinnamon and rosemary sit for a while before drinking, but it still tastes wonderful without doing so.
- You can add more or less ginger juice depending on your taste. I like mine quite "gingery" for the health benefits and for the spiciness, so I prefer the above amount. I used a juicer to juice the ginger, however, if you don't have a juicer and can't purchase fresh ginger juice from your local health food store or juice bar, try grating some fresh ginger and add this to your cider along with the juice that it produces.