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Lemon - aid.

As we head into the sneezle season, we start to turn on the heating and spend more time indoors, snuggled up with our nearest and dearest, sharing time, company ...... and microbes. And if some of our nearest are nursery school children, there may be a particularly rich variety of those.

Unfortunately, as the nights draw and the log fires (or central heating systems) start burning, protective nutrient rich salads may lose their appeal and we might be more easily tempted by warm and comforting carbohydrate rich foods, such as mashed potatoes, pasta, toasted sandwiches, and puddings. However, given the year round availability of fresh food in today's society, hunkering down for winter and laying down extra layers of fat for the long lean months ahead is not necessary, as it was for our ancestors.

However, there are some nutritious vegetables and fruits which are commonly associated with winter months and penty of others which are less often seen on the Sunday lunch table but which abound at this time of year. Winter squash, carrots, swedes, caulifower, leeks, the humble Brussels Sprout (love it or hate it), winter cabbage, artichokes and citrus fruit are all packed with vitamins and minerals to keep ourselves healthy and ready to fend off unwelcome invaders. Fortunately, we do not seem to lose our fondness for oranges and lemons as we creep into December and they may be smelled in the air as the festivities start to peak. We see them dried in Christmas decorations, they appear beside our platter of smoked salmon, they add piquancy to the mulled wine and star in many a pudding, as well as being the power behind the throne of many a savoury dish.

This can only be a good thing. Lemons are rich in Vitamin C, which can support the body to fight infection, and contain plant chemicals which may help protect blood vessels from damage. They are also a good source of calcium, potassium, folate, magnesium, B vitamins and iron, as well as containing substances which promote healthy eyes and skin.

Another very important benefit of lemon is in encouraging good digestion. A slice of lemon taken in a glass of warm water, may improve the flow of digestive enzymes, so that more nutrients are absorbed from food and full advantage may be taken of all those winter vegetables! And, if you are watching your weight, you may be delighted to know that while you take on board more nutrients, you may even be losing some fat.

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