Our health and wellness contributor, April Reigart has some wonderful advice on keeping ourselves and our families healthy this winter season.

My job, as a holistic health coach, is to teach people how to find better health in the whole of their life.  Before you can get healthy by eating salads everyday – you need to be experiencing balance in your spirituality, your career, your physical activity and your relationships. No amount of kale can combat the effects of too much stress. It can certainly help to mitigate the onset of, say, adrenal fatigue – but it cannot wholly cure you if your life is off the rails.

When I am coaching people, I often address thought and perception. These are the things that shape your outlook on life. What you focus on, is your life.  Also, most people already know they should be eating more vegetables and less processed “food-like” products.  So, I generally focus on helping you to change your relationship with the world…to be kinder to yourself, and open to possibility.

However, the number one contributing factor to good health, in my opinion, is nutrition. Maybe you’ve heard the adage: “You count outrun a bad diet.” It’s true. So maybe kale can’t conquer stress, but poor nutrition can’t fight off a cold, either.

There are two things people seem to start worrying about as we head in to winter: 1) how to keep cold and flu away, and 2) how to keep off the unwanted, dreaded winter pounds (or at least keep them reasonable!).

When it comes to cold and flu viruses, nothing beats homeopathy. There are no medications on the market that will cure the common cold- only mask symptoms, but there are herbs and foods that can actually kill the cold virus, or greatly reduce its tenure.  There are also a myriad of ways in which we can boost our immune systems in order to stave off the cold and flu.

I do try to keep my opinions judicious when delivering health advice, but, inevitably, they are still my opinions (though they are educated opinions, and shared by many in my field).  Here comes one, though: Flu shots are almost useless. The only people I know who actually had the flu in the past several years are people who got the flu shot.  Also, people who get the flu shot are contagious with the flu. But, that isn’t why I think they are useless.  I think they are useless because 1) they are only 50% effective, and 2) they usually don’t contain the proper strain of flu virus to protect you anyhow.  Considering all the toxic heavy metals, MSG and other contaminants added to the flu vaccine (including now GMO insect ingredients), I am left wondering: what’s the point?  I regard the flu shot in the same way that I regard the random security searches at the airport: kinda useless.

Regardless of whether you do or don’t get your flu shot, you could still get the flu, so you should know how to naturally help your body to avoid the flu, as well as how to recover quickly. This goes for colds, too.

There are some wonderful homeopathic remedies, and not the least of which is “chicken soup,” or, more specifically: bone broth. Bone broth is a little different in its preparation so as to extract all the vital nutrition from the bones being simmered.  A side note to any vegans/vegetarians who may be reading this: there are very healthful and medicinal vegetable and mushroom broths to be had, however, none deliver the beneficial mineral and amino acid profile of a bone broth. It’s just two different things, but a wonderful mushroom, garlic and ginger broth can definitely be helpful in fighting colds and flu.

The reason bone broth is such a powerful tonic for our immune systems is because bone broths are amazingly rich in nutrients – particularly minerals and amino acids (particularly glycine, proline and arginine). Glycine supports the body’s detoxification process and is used to make new blood, as well as other chemical processes in the body. Glycine also supports digestion. Proline, especially when used with vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broths are also rich in gelatin, which improves collagen status, thus supporting skin and digestive health. Chicken stock inhibits neutrophil migration, meaning it helps to lessen the side effects of the cold and flu!

Another very simple, yet effective, tool to mitigate cold, flu and other infection is organic, raw apple cider vinegar.  Raw ACV has very strong antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial capabilities.  It can be taken orally, or used topically on skin conditions. Taking 1 tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water, 15 minutes before a meal, drastically improves digestion by stimulating digestive juices. This leads to better nutrient absorption, which ultimately leads to better health!

Real apple cider vinegar contains valuable minerals and trace elements, cholesterol lowering pectin, fat burning acetic acid, antiviral malic acid, live enzymes, amino acids and many other beneficial nutrients.   ACV can help alleviate constipation, normalize intestinal flora, prevent candidiasis, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, promote weight loss, detoxify the liver and boost the immune system.  Not only do the antiviral properties of ACV help to fight off cold and flu, but it is effective at aiding the lymphatic system with cleansing and break-up of mucous in the body so that, over time, it will relieve sinus congestion and allergies and reduce your incidence of cold and flu.

Am I saying that taking apple cider vinegar and bone broth everyday will keep you healthy?  Pretty much! We are very out of touch with the traditional foods of our ancestors. It is a great idea for health and longevity to include things like broth, ferments and cultured foods. These traditional foods have a multitude of interconnected healthful benefits.

As mentioned above, apple cider vinegar may help with weight loss.  However, the most effective way to keep your weight normal/optimal – I’m not even going to mention exercise here – is to take a very real look at the amount of calories you may be consuming in a day. Exercise is an extremely important factor in maintaining health, strength, fitness and mental acuity- but, it is not the main solution to weight loss. I see plenty of overweight marathon runners and triathletes…so it isn’t always a matter of exercising more!

You can’t outrun a poor diet or overconsumption. Unfortunately, it is very easy to over-consume in our present food landscape.  One meal (just one out of the three we all tend to eat in a day) at a chain restaurant, like Chili’s or Applebee’s or Denny’s, can contain more than 2,000 calories.  This is true at Burger King and McDonald’s, as well. 2,000 calories is actually more than most people need to consume daily, so eating as much in just one meal is a recipe for weight gain.

While I don’t recommend calorie counting all the time (it’s enough to make anyone crazy) I do suggest spending a week re-familiarizing yourself with what a 400-600 calorie meal actually looks like. Because you should only be eating three such meals a day (give or take a few, depending on your size and activity level).  Don’t forget that snacks and juices can add on lots of extra calories!

Speaking of overeating, you know the myth that pregnant women are “eating for two”? Well, they’re really not. It is more like eating for 1.1. A healthy woman need not add anymore than a small apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter to her daily food intake when pregnant. Sorry, moms-to-be…it really isn’t a free pass to eat a tub of ice cream in the middle of the night. Emotionally, that’s a different story: do whatever you need to do so that others may live.

It’s worth noting that if your calorie consumption is normal and you are exercising, but still carry excess weight or cannot lose weight, you might want to consult your doctor.  This could be due to hormonal imbalance, especially from adrenal fatigue.  If your cortisol levels are consistently too high, it places a great strain on the body and can make healthy weight maintenance impossible.

When it comes to counting calories, it is really about making the calories count.  Focus on nutrient dense foods: that is a whole food that is high in beneficial nutrients and fiber, and lower in calories per serving.  For example, a nutrient dense breakfast might consist of two eggs with spinach, a strip or two of bacon and a bowl of raspberries with plain coffee or tea.  This breakfast would be the appropriate amount of calories and consists of highly nutritious foods containing minerals, vitamins, fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants.  It is a combination that will benefit your health and sustain you until lunch time.

An example of a high caloric breakfast with little nutrition would be a large, white flour bagel with cream cheese and a vanilla latte from Starbucks. This meal could contain about 850 calories (getting you off to a bad start for the day, considering it would be half your daily caloric intake), and has a lack of fiber and nutrients.  There is not much nutrition in flour, the dairy is arguable and due to the lack of fiber and healthy fat, it will not maintain your blood sugar.  The high carbohydrate nature of a breakfast like this not only cause insulin spikes and crashes we want to avoid, but this is the action that (despite the large number of calories consumed) can leave you feeling hungry and irritable in as little as one hour after consumption!  This is dangerous for people sitting in an office near a box of doughnuts that someone brought to work!

Speaking of tempting donuts in the workplace: If you work in an office and your coworkers are constantly bringing in sugary snacks (I hear this complaint quite a lot), try bringing in your own bowls full of snacks: crudité with healthy dips, apples, dried fruit and nut mixes (which are caloric, but at least contain nutrients, fat, and fiber!), air popped popcorn with olive oil and nutritional yeast, or home baked goodies for special occasions.  It is just a fact that, no matter what ingredients you use, a homemade baked good will be far better than something store bought.  I don’t know anyone that reaches for mono- and di-glycerides, propylene glycol, azodicarbonamide, MSG, FD&C blue #5 or anything like that when baking a cake at home.

I’m not a fan of snacking, but, it happens, so, make it count!

There are a myriad of things out there that you can employ to maintain great health, and these are but a few simple, highly effective strategies that you can start today.  Food for thought, as they say!


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April Reigart is an Institute for Integrative Nutrition Certified Holistic Health Coach, and also certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She holds a Master’s Degree from Tyler School of Art, and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and young son. She is available for one-on-one coaching and health strategizing, and offers free initial health consultations. Find her through her website, on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.