Spring Clean your Health

Spring cleaning is about removing the old to make way for the new. And it feels especially important after the year we’ve had. The lack of sunshine, socialising and outdoor fun has taken its toll on our physical and mental health. Thankfully, with spring on its way, the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, and vaccinations well underway, it’s a great time to take stock and start anew. Here are six tips to help you start Spring 2021 with a spring in your step.

Spring cleaning is about removing the old to make way for the new. And it feels especially important after the year we’ve had. The lack of sunshine, socialising and outdoor fun has taken its toll on our physical and mental health. Thankfully, with spring on its way, the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, and vaccinations well underway, it’s a great time to take stock and start anew. Here are six tips to help you start Spring 2021 with a spring in your step.

1. Recharge with Vitamin D

After spending almost a year in some form of confinement, it’s more important than ever to top up your Vitamin D levels. Not to mention missing out on sunny holidays abroad last summer! The benefits of optimal Vitamin D status just keep on mounting, as research identifies new links between the sunshine vitamin and various health outcomes. Vitamin D is not only critical for bone and muscle health, it also plays a role in managing inflammation and immunity. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recently published guidelines that concluded Vitamin D supplementation (between 10mcg and 25mcg/day) could help reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections. As yet, these findings cannot be extrapolated to reducing Covid-19 risk, but plenty of research is underway to explore this.

2. Optimise your immunity

Our immune system is likely to need a boost after such a long and dreary winter, whether we’ve had COVID-19 or not. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamins A, C, E, certain B Vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc and Copper are all essential in the optimal functioning of the immune system. So, make the most of what mother nature has to offer and get your fill of these nutrients from a balanced and varied diet, including plenty of brightly coloured, antioxidant-rich fruit and veg, nutritious nuts and wholesome wholegrains. 

3. Check your diet’s diversity

Plant-based diversity is key to a healthy diet. Not just because it offers nutrient variety, it also feeds the diversity of our gut microbiome. Literally. The trillions of microbes populating your gut each have their own food preferences, and the more diverse they are, the healthier you are. A gut microbiome in peak condition helps maintain gut integrity, function and immunity, as well as mental health. So, what do I mean by plant-based diversity? It’s about the number of different types of fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, herbs and spices you eat on a weekly basis. If the number of different types is over 30 in a week, you’re doing great! If it’s under 20, it’s time to mix things up a bit and try some different plant-based options.

4. Eat fresh, seasonal and local

Spring is a perfect time to eat more seasonal foods, as choice and availability are so much greater than in winter. Seasonal foods are fresher, more flavoursome, and are often locally produced, supporting our local farmers and businesses. Plus, they are better for the environment, through reduced packaging and transportation needs. It’s also time to embrace imperfection, as fruit and veg with odd shapes and scars often contain more polyphenols, as they’ve endured more stressful growing conditions. Here are some great seasonal, spring-time veg to try, all of which are delicious and great for your gut health too!

Rhubarb, Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Beetroot, Cabbage, Carrots, Chicory, Elderflowers, Lettuce, Marrow, New Potatoes, Peas, Peppers, Kale, Morel, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Radishes, Rocket, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Watercress.

5. Get gardening

Speaking of seasonal fruit and veg, why not grow your own!? Research clearly highlights the many physical and psychological health benefits of gardening. The combination of fresh air, exercise, Vitamin D, serotonin, and exposure to some beneficial bacteria in the soil, are thought to explain some of gardening’s well recognised benefits. Plus, it’s a gift that keeps on giving when you relax and admire the fruits of your labour, eliciting all your senses. The beauty of your flower garden, the fragrance of your herb garden and the taste of organic produce from your vegetable garden. If you don’t have a garden, plant a herb box at home and use it to top-up your polyphenols!

6. Try something new

There are many recognised benefits in trying new things, including reduced boredom, increased confidence, motivation and self-worth, and an appreciation of the value of things around us. These ‘new things’ can be as big or as small as you wish. In other words, every little helps… Here are some ideas to try:

  • a new food or recipe
  • a different type of exercise
  • a change in your morning or bedtime routine, work or home-working routine
  • a new book
  • a new hobby
  • new mindfulness or relaxation techniques
  • a new self-care routine or pampering treatment

It’s been a tough old year, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. This spring is the perfect time to ditch old, unhelpful habits, try lots of new things and look forward with hope. Use this season to spring clean not just your home, but also your health and your routines, for a healthier you, in body and mind. Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself a tap on the back. You deserve it.

Sources

Immunologic Effects of Vitamin D on Human Health and Disease – PubMed (nih.gov)

SACN rapid review: Vitamin D and acute respiratory tract infections – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections – PubMed (nih.gov)

Interaction between the gut microbiome and mucosal immune system – PubMed (nih.gov)

The Gut Microbiome Contributes to a Substantial Proportion of the Variation in Blood Lipids – PubMed (nih.gov)

State of the Art Review: The role of the gut microbiome in systemic inflammatory disease (nih.gov)

The gut microbiome (joinzoe.com)

Optimising Gut Health – The Gut Health Doctor

One Blue Dot – the BDA’s Environmentally Sustainable Diet Project

Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)

12 Reasons to Try Something New Every Day (consumerhealthdigest.com)