7 winter food myths
Summer has gone. Autumn has arrived. Winter is on its way. The changing of seasons, warm and sunny to rainy and cold, brings not only a change in temperature and weather but it also carries colds, bugs and the flu back into our lives. It's unavoidable, unfortunately. Most of us will succumb and be laid low by the common cold, sparking a period of feeling sorry for ourselves while we struggle to breathe through our noses. Tissue after tissue will be used. It will prevent us from exercising and competing as training in the cold will only prolong the sickness.
Among the old wives' tales, the plethora of medicines and pills that everyone is plied with when sick, what can we actually trust to help nurse us back to health?
Here are some myths surrounding winter food:
Myth one: Vitamin C supplements prevent colds
Research shows loading up on vitamin C from the health food shop will make symptoms a little milder, these tablets won't stop you from getting a cold so your money might be better spent on foods that are abundant in vitamin C (citrus fruits, capsicum, broccoli and apples) if it's a preventative measure you're after.
Myth two: Alcohol warms you up
We've all had someone telling you that drinking an alcoholic beverage will warm you up and thaw you out. Unfortunately, it's just not true. Despite the initial warm sensation, alcohol actually decreases your core body temperature.
Alcohol dilates the blood vessels allowing more blood to flow to the skin, which brings on that warm feeling. But this effect overrides one of your body's natural defences against cold temperatures. When it's cold, your body constricts your blood vessels to minimise blood flow to the skin, keeping your body temp up.
The warm skin you feel when drinking soon passes, but the drop in body temperature can be especially dangerous in extremely cold weather. Alcohol also reduces our ability to shiver, which is another way your body creates warmth.
Myth three:..And so do spicy foods
That really hot curry may have you downing water like nobody's business, but just because your mouth is on fire doesn't mean that your spice fix will warm up your body. Capsaicin, a chemical found in chilli, produces a flushed face and burning mouth, which are common effects of eating spicy foods, as it tricks heat sensors in the body into thinking that you're somewhere hot. This triggers natural heat responses, like sweating, but while you may feel hot initially, that will soon fade.
Myth four: Dairy is bad for a cold
Dairy gets a bad rep when it comes to colds. Labelled with a reputation for increasing mucus production, people often stay clear of dairy when they fall sick, reaching for comfort food rather than a glass of milk or pot of yoghurt. However, there's no research which proves that is the case.
Dairy products are naturally thick and can leave a thin coating in the mouth, giving the perception of more mucus when in actual fact there is no increase in mucus production. A cold glass of milk or tub of yoghurt might actually help a sore throat and provide important nutrients when your appetite is lacking.
Myth five: A daily multivitamin will keep your immune system firing
Supplements might be packed with a range of vitamins and minerals, but they lack the complex array of Phytonutrients that only food can provide, and you can get all the nutrients you need by eating a variety of foods.
Additionally, more and more research shows that chronic supplementation of antioxidants may do more harm than good. For the best immune-boosting benefits, focus on what you eat each day. Make sure your diet is rich in whole foods like fruit and vegetables, as these will offer you more benefits than a few isolated nutrients in a supplement.
Myth six: You need to eat more in winter
Overindulging in all our favourite comfort food can add on kilos without any warming effects. This additional weight gain comes in the form of white fat, which doesn't have anything to do with keeping us warm, it's the brown fat which provides warmth.
That's right, we have different types of fat, who knew?! While white fat stores energy, brown fat burns kilojoules for heat. So, unfortunately, piling your plate high with rich delights at every meal won't offer any winter survival tricks.
Myth seven: You don't need to drink as much water when the temperature drops
Water, as we all know, is essential to living. So drink lots of it! H2O is a man's true best friend and he must be treated as such in all seasons, not just when you're sweating profusely on a beach in summer. When the temperature drops you may not be sweating as much or as often but you still need to keep hydrated. You'll be losing water just by breathing and we don't recommend that you stop doing that. Failing to keep your hydration levels up throughout winter can decrease your mood, reduce attention span and affect your memory while physical activities and exercise will feel harder.