Eat better this winter

Our resident dietician ADRIAN PENZHORN sheds some light on what foods will help with your training during the approaching cold winter months.

here is a chill in the air, darker mornings are upon us and training is getting just a little bit harder. The next few months might see a bit more time on the indoor trainer. Some good news though is the price of avo’s is coming down and the shelves should be filling up with some beautiful winter produce; apples, asparagus, beans, fennel, turnips, mushroom, broccoli, garlic, onion, aubergine and beetroot. There is still an array of colour you can fill your plate with to pack in the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your body will need to keep fighting fit over these months.

The biggest challenge to many endurance athletes is avoiding time off the bike caused by illness and that risk ramps up over the autumn and winter seasons. Nutrition can go a long way to helping prevent this however. In previous articles we’ve discussed how being overly restrictive with carbohydrate can impair immune function and about the benefit of including probiotics, zinc and vitamin D. There is also the support of good hydration practices and healthy sleep in helping as a first line defence.
But the bounty at your deli, market or retailer can and should provide a delicious immune boosting foundation.

My picks for a daily intake would be one to two servings of each of the following plant groups:

+ Brassica – broccoli, cauliflower, kale or Brussel sprouts are a source of a number of unique compounds that keep us fit and healthy. Roast these in winter or reinvent the poorly Brussels by frying with pasture-reared bacon to bring them to life.

+ Sulphur Rich Onion and Garlic are always a starting point for my winter warmers and garlic in particular being quite high in sulphur and containing compounds that can enhance immune function. Roast it, use it as a base in your soups, sauces and stews or pickle it and add it as a condiment as you like. Add some turmeric to your onion base for an extra hit of recovery supporting curcumin too.

+ Mushrooms, particularly bioactive mushrooms such as oyster have a beta-glucan component that can enhance immune function. A delicious mushroom soup, grilled miso and soy mushroom steak or swapping your burger bun for a large brown mushroom are some great ways to get them in.

+ Reds and purples would finish my five a day from either beetroot, peppers, tomato, berries or cocoa to round off the supply of phytonutrients that can support health and recovery.

A cheap and delicious addition to the winter “stock” could be your own supply of bone broth too. The gelatine and other nutrients the slow boil leaches from quality stock bones could help support immunity, gut health and soft tissue repair from injury. The jelly-like end product can be added to the soups and stews you have planned from the produce above or consumed as a warm drink on it’s own spiced with any flavours you could imagine. You can use any bones really, those with more connective tissue or marrow are best. Even last nights roast chicken carcass can go into the pot.

The performance kitchen rehab broth.

+ 2 kg grass fed beef or free range chicken bones, roasted
+ 1 large onion, diced
+ 3 garlic cloves
+ 3 celery stalks, chopped
+ 2 carrots, chopped
+ Any other veg scraps from the fridge can go in too
+ Enough water to cover the bones
+ 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
+ 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
+ 2-3 cloves
+ 2 star anise
+ 1 Tbsp. pepper corns

Roasting the bones adds a great depth of flavour and colour to the broth. Pop them in the oven at 180 for 25 minutes before adding them to the pot with all the other ingredients. There is no need to peel anything, just give them a good wash. Bring it all to the boil, skimming off some of the debris that forms. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and leave for as long as possible. We do it overnight for eight to 12 hours. You can also get this all into a pressure cooker and let it rip over two hours.
Once complete, try to cool as quickly as possible to prevent bacterial growth. A few ice cubes can help. Skim off the fat that sets on top and store your broth in the fridge or freezer to use as needed. We’ve used it here to pour over Ramen style dishes in our kitchen.

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