This is the time of year for colds and flu, itches and twitches, as the central heating gets turned on, and the weather changes its patterns in nothing longer than a few seconds – who hasn’t already been caught out by a sudden flash downpour, or a gusty wind, seemingly from nowhere?   Your body has all the necessary tools to arm itself for these seasonal onslaughts, providing you give it what it needs – and don’t go running to the nearest surgery for a flu jab in anticipation of what only might happen. Sleep, regular meals consisting of antioxidant-rich autumn vegetables, and warming broths and soups are de rigeur at this time of year – get that slow-cooker out and visit your local farmers’ market for the best organic produce!

So much has been expounded about this ancient spice, from the anti-inflammatory curcumin it contains to the deep shaman-cloth colour of its root and powder (it stains literally everything in its path – beware), but knowing how best to consume it is key. Mixing it with coconut oil or butter in preparation for a curry is recommended as the CLA (conjugated linoleum acid it contains helps with the absorption of the curcuminoids), and adding cracked black pepper to the mix enhances its properties still further. The root itself is more pungent and potent than the subsequent dried powder, and ensures a medicinal-grade dose of curcumins, rather than plumbing for supermarket-grade turmeric powder. You can grow this in your own garden as a tuber, similar to ginger, although make sure you mark the spot, to save digging through the expanding tuber as it gathers strength from the soil’s nutrients over the winter and spring months.

These humble but beautiful seed pods were emulated for their anti-viral properties in the formulation of the anti-avian-flu medications at the turn of the century. Whilst avian flu never became the epidemic it was touted to be, the natural anti-viral compounds in star anise are invaluable – add to all your winter poached fruits, baked apples, and even soups and risottos – they work beautifully with cinnamon and nutmeg in sweet dishes and with sage or thyme in more savoury servings. You can rinse and re-use them several times, as they simply become more potent as their properties are released with each soaking and cooking. I add them to all my nuts and seeds when soaking to add a hint of favour, and an abundance of protective compounds.

These are two nutrients that are best taken in supplement form, as it is more difficult to obtain them from foods alone, although vitamin D is abundant in mushrooms so, if you are a natural forager, now is the time to gather your protection from the woodlands and forests around you. How on earth did it take the medical community so long to realise how vital this vitamin is for our health? From bone health to depression, Vitamin D is also essential for your digestive health, and thereby your immunity, as 80% of your immune system resides in the gut – hence all the talk currently about the importance of the human microbiota – those trillions of beneficial bacteria residing in the total length of your digestive system (and, in particular, the small and large intestine. Don’t be fooled by marketing hype of ‘probiotic yoghurt drinks’ eg. Yakult – they are laden with sugars. Opt instead for organic goats’ or sheeps’ milk Kefir which contains all the probiotics you need, in a form you can absorb.)

Green is the New Black, and has been for some time for those that are in the know. Green tea is obtained from very special, first-growth tea buds, that are picked at dawn, when they are at their most potent. Prized for their polyphenols (potent plant antioxidants), green tea does contain caffeine, but at a much lower, and purer, level than either black teas or coffee.  (Having developed green tea non-alcoholic cocktails all summer, I can swear by the potency of this beautiful tea myself), Green matcha tea powder is the ultimate component for lattes at a healthier level – choose your preferred nut milk, and swirl in a teaspoon of pure matcha (Pukka or Bloom Teas Sunrise Matcha) for the perfect kick-start to your day, without anxiety or jitters associated with coffee.

Love the body you’re in, and take good care of it – you are the best person to do that.

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