5 health and wellness tips from Nadia Lim

Celebrity chef and co-founder of My Food Bag, Nadia Lim, shares her best advice for living a healthier life.

By Bronte Chaperon

Keeping on track with our health and fitness can seem impossible during winter, but somehow celebrity chef and My Food bag co-founder, Nadia Lim, makes it look easy.

Speaking at this year's Nadia Healthy Well-thy Wise Workshop, the nude food advocate ("food from the ground, the sea and the sky – and less from the factories") shared her top tips for living well - and we must say, we're impressed.

The charismatic chef spoke about happiness, gut health, healthy eating (of course) and the importance of vitamin D.

Naturopath Annaliese Jones and Yogi + Chef Kelly Baker also revealed their thoughts on how to not only make this winter healthier, but make lasting healthy changes to your lifestyle.

1. Watch out for signs of zinc deficiency - zinc is important during winter

Annaliese and Nadia mention that zinc is important for fighting off viruses and bacteria, and it's not a bad idea to have a zinc lozenge before a long haul flight to help you fight off any bugs.

"Zinc is one of the nutrients we definitely need to keep on top of for our immunity," says Nadia. "About one third of Kiwis are zinc deficit or have sub optimal zinc levels and it's not something that your doctor will test you for."

Signs of a zinc deficiency include:

  • You're prone to viral and bacterial infections and seem to have a weak immune system
  • Your hair is thinning
  • You're noticing acne or rashes
  • Your wounds aren't healing very well or at all
  • Diarrhoea
  • Food loses its taste

You can find zinc in the following foods:

  • Oysters
  • Red meat
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Cheese
  • Almonds
  • Milk
  • Peas

2. Happiness is a priority

While everyone finds joy in different ways, there are some things you can do to improve your mood during winter.

Vitamin D is important to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression during winter:

"30 to 40 per cent of Kiwis have sub optimal levels of vitamin D. In winter everyone's levels go down because of less sun, so go on holiday!" says Nadia.

"The best way to get vitamin D is to get out in the sun," says Annaliese. "30 per cent of your body needs to be exposed. And depending on what time of year it is, it affects how long you need - but get sun outside of burn time."

"Getting early morning sun is been really important for preventing SAD, so making sure you have breakfast out on the deck or on your back step is good."

Naturopath Annaliese recommends heading outside at lunchtime to get some midday sun.

Get into the garden:

Now To Love has reported before that gardening is good for your mind and body, but Nadia suggests it, too. Nadia says she likes to get out into the garden for ten minutes a day - even though she doesn't have a green thumb.

Switch off from technology:

Nadia admits while it may seem odd, she doesn't have a TV!

"I haven't had a TV in over seven years. I have no idea what's going on in the world most of the time! That's how out of it I am. My husband and I made the decision seven years ago. It was our neighbour that got us onto it.

"He had stopped reading the news and any apps on his phone because everything was negative and he wanted to block out any negativity. And it made me think 'yeah, you're kind of right'. It's made a big difference to our life at home - no TV and not keeping up with the news. It's really helped and I enjoy it. It's tricky in the beginning. I'm fine not knowing what's going on."

3. Your gut health is important

We know that having a healthy gut is important, but you may not know that there are many ways your gut affects your physical and mental health.

Our two kilograms of gut microbiome - living bacteria in our stomach - are working to make our gut healthier. And as it turns out, we actually lose a lot of our good bacteria in our stool.

"Our diets these days are quite hard on our microbiome. A good thing to have is fermented food like kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt, kombucha. A little bit of that in your diet is a good idea," says Annaliese.

"Stress impacts our microbiome, too. We have more serotonin in our gut than our brains. So if you have IBS or chronic bowel issues, it can lead to anxiety and depression in some cases."

"Good health starts in the gut. It's called your second brain."

But our gut microbiome isn't the only factor affecting our gut health.

"I'd divide gut health into digestion and gut microbiome," says Nadia.

"Chewing your food very well is important, you should be chewing each mouthful 20 times, it's a good habit to get into. The more you mush up your food the less pressure you put on your digestive system, 'cause it doesn't have to work so hard to put out the stomach acid to break food down, so you end up absorbing your nutrients a lot better.

"One little tip, having a little bit of apple cider vinegar - talking one to two teaspoons in a glass of warm water before your meal - helps to stimulate that stomach acid production so you can digest your food better."

Other tips to improve gut health:

  • Eat less processed foods (which Nadia refers to as 'dead foods'), and consume more live foods.
  • Eat lots of raw food from the ground and the sea.

4. Boosting immunity during winter with 'nude food' and herbs

Despite her scientific background and initial skepticism of herbs, Nadia now recommends them after turning to herbs (and naturopath Annaliese) when she developed ezcema on her ring finger.

Annaliese says, "I'm really excited to talk about using what nature provides, and what's in our kitchens and gardens as medicine. Garlic is so potent as a natural antibiotic. Most people probably know garlic is really good for heart health, but a lot of people don't know how good it is for your immune system and how it boosts white blood cells.

"The only trick to it though is that the garlic, to have that effect, needs to be raw. You probably want to have two cloves a day. If you're FODMAP person, don't have raw garlic."

Tips to naturally boost your immunity:

  • Thyme is great for a wet or dry cough but you need a lot of it. Have a tablespoon of it when it's fresh, steam it and add some honey in warm water. Four cups a day.
  • Ginger works really well in the mouth. Chew some to avoid coughing when you need to be quiet (in a meeting or yoga class).
  • Try apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, thyme, teaspoon of honey for a 'sunshine tonic'.
  • Sage is really great for sore throats. Use six leaves, steep it for ten minutes, and have four cups a day.
  • Nadia and Annaleise say capsicum and kiwi fruit has more vitamin C than citrus fruits!
  • Get some really good sleep and don't overindulge in alcohol.
  • Eat more vegetables in your diet than fruit.
  • Eat lots of warming foods and slow cooked meats.

5. We can retrain our tastebuds to be less tolerant of sweets

If you're a sweet tooth and can't resist the call of biscuits and tea at 3pm, there is a way to train yourself out of tolerating regular sweets.

"Sugar is a massive topic and of course everyone knows too much sugar isn't great for us, and we've all become really accustomed to quite a high level of sweetness, just because it's everywhere - it's pretty hard to avoid. Over time it's been shown people's sweetness tolerance has gone up gradually over the years.

"If you want to learn to retrain your tastebuds, the way to do it is to eat more bitter foods. The most obvious ones are dark, leafy greens - especially kale."

Check out our gallery of photos from the Nadia Healthy Well-thy Wise events in Wellington and Auckland below. With thanks to our event partners Dole, Yoplait, Ti Ora and Aveeno.

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