Winter hasn’t officially arrived, but is has already made its appearance in some states. It is never too early to prepare your family for a healthy winter.
I am a firm believer that food and health have a high correlation. My family is on the natural end of the food spectrum. We eat organic and real food the majority of the time. Our diets are filled with limited sugar (although I’m the worst culprit—I can sometimes be found hiding out in my pantry sneaking a bite of chocolate) and limited processed foods.
Through my own research, understanding, and experience, I have been making the following liquids to supplement our diets. It is best to prepare for winter—when we are indoors more often and viruses are shared more than toys—by building up our immune systems and preventing as many illnesses.
These liquids are supported by real food, Nourishing Traditions, herbalists, and other natural food trends. Our family is healthy and I find these liquids prevent and minimize the spread of sickness.
This syrup has taken over as our daily vitamins. Elderberry syrup helps prevent and fight off germs. If you research elderberries alone, you may read that eating them individually and raw might prove toxic. However, when you boil and dispose of the casings, you will be in the clear. Wellness Mama has the recipe I currently use.
You can find elderberries at your local health food store. If you don’t want to make it, many stores now sell the syrup. My kids love the flavor, I love that I can make it, and my husband is happy that elderberry syrup increases our immunity. You can also use it to cover up other liquids, such as cod liver oil or medicine.
Growing up, and still today, chicken soup is famous for its cure-alls. The problem is the chicken soup many are eating is processed and has no health benefits. The truth I understand now as an adult is bone broth—not chicken soup— is where this medicinal gossip came from. Getting the nutrients from the bones and cartilage produces the most health benefits. It helps replenish the body.
One way I make bone broth is to roast a chicken in the crock pot—remove and eat the meat for dinner—then add other ingredients (apple cider vinegar, water, carrots, onions, etc.) to make the broth overnight. Another way is to buy beef bones and simmer on the stovetop for up to 48 hours.
Organic and grass fed bones provide the best minerals and nutrients when making bone broth. I don’t make our family drink this daily. I usually freeze half of the broth—when sore throats or runny noses start to visit our home, I heat up the broth to drink.
If you haven’t yet tried kombucha, maybe you have at least heard about it. It is a fermented tea that is now sold at many stores—even Target. Like anything, homemade is better and cheaper, but not always as convenient. Kombucha is a living probiotic that has many benefits for our gut and immune system. You can read more about the advantages at Dr. Axe.
I have been brewing our kombucha for over a year now. My husband and I drink about 4 oz. in the morning, right after we wake up. Drinking it on an empty stomach maximizes the benefits of this drink. We have noticed improved bowel function, limited sickness, no more seasonal allergies, and overall improved general health. I personally used to get every virus that I made contact with, but now I cannot even remember the last time I had a head cold (should I knock on wood?).
Making kombucha is easy once you find yourself a starter SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Yes, it looks as gross as it sounds. My husband and nephews ate a piece of this once and described it as slimy goo running down your throat. Once you can get past that, the process of brewing is easy.
There are many recipes to follow, such as this one from Kombucha Kamp, but the basics include brewing tea and adding a bit sugar. Then you combine with the starter and let it ferment for an average of 9 days. You can flavor it to your liking (lemon, ginger, chia, etc.) with a second fermentation (a few more days) or you can drink it unflavored.
None of my degrees are related to culinary or health studies, so take this with a grain of salt or a big dash if needed. As moms we know the proof is what counts the most. I believe these natural remedies and preventative measures have improved my family’s overall health.
Whether you live in a true four season region or in a more arid climate, winter comes with a blanket of diseases. There are many deliberate and natural ways to focus on preventative health during winter. What do you do?
Stefani Boutelier is a mother, writer, and educator. She is a rearing her children with the greatest sense of humor and an open mind. She loves to write in a variety of genres–find her writing at Mock Mom, Three Line Poetry, or TODAY Parenting. You can also find her more regularly at www.mamagenericana.com,www.facebook.com/sboutelier, or @stefboutelier.