When cold weather hits it's more important than ever to make sure to provide your body with the best nutrition possible. This time of year the immune system is weakened for a number of reasons such as: holiday stress, over-indulging on rich foods and alcohol, added social interactions and late night parties, changing sleep schedules, and even the cold weather itself.
Any of these factors can make us more susceptible to colds and other viruses. There are a number of ways that you can support your immune system by making good health and nutrition choices throughout the colder winter months.
Your Nutrition Plan for Cold Weather
Eat seasonal foods.
It makes no sense whatsoever to eat pineapple when it's snowing outside. When you decide to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season, you're choosing to eat produce that is at its peak in nutrition and freshness. This means that your body will reap the benefits of all those good vitamins and minerals, and help your immune system stay as strong as possible. Check out this seasonal food guide, where you can search your area for what is currently in season.
Sip on broth.
There's a good reason why we crave soup in the wintertime, and it's not just because it warms us from the inside out. Broth is a great source of hydration, it contains important vitamins and minerals, and aids in digestion.
To acquire the highest quality of nutrients, make your own broth at home! We have a great guide for how to make bone broth, but it's just as easy to make vegetable broth as well. Start by saving vegetable ends (carrot tops, onion ends, celery, mushroom bottoms, broccoli stems, etc) in a bag in the freezer. When ready to use, fill a large pot with water and a couple of pinches of salt. Add the vegetable ends and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let rest for another hour or two until its cool enough to strain out the vegetables and store the broth. Store in glass jars in the fridge for up to one week.
Ramp up your vitamin D.
Shorter days make us less exposed to our natural source of vitamin D: the sun. Vitamin D not only helps to reduce your likelihood of getting the flu, but it can also combat seasonal depression.
Supplementing with vitamin D is a great option, but be sure to choose a good quality vitamin from a reputable company (not just any old generic brand off the shelf). Since supplements aren't regulated by the FDA they can contain dangerous additives and sometimes not even include the vitamins they claim to contain right on the bottle.
To combat this, many supplement companies have begun taking the issue into their own hands and self-regulating. Grocery store chains such as Natural Grocers put all of their vitamins and supplements through a rigorous approval process to ensure that you're getting what you pay for. When supplementing, remember that vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it is more easily absorbed when taken with another type of fat (such as oil, avocado, eggs, nuts or seeds, etc).
Stay on top of your exercise routine.
It is much more difficult to get off the couch when it's cold and wet outside. However, during the winter its more important than ever to keep moving. Your lymphatic system has no way to flush out dead cells and toxins unless your blood is pushing it all through, and exercise is a great way to keep the cycle moving naturally.
We have a list of winter weather workout tips, but even just bundling up and going for a long walk is beneficial. Getting those endorphins going will boost your mood, and support a healthy immune system at the same time.
Keep yourself hydrated.
When we're warm and sweating, we have a natural urge to drink plenty of water. When it's cold and were shivering, there's less of an urge but it is just as important to stay hydrated.
Water is vital to all of our internal systems, especially the immune system. Sip on your homemade broth or try some of these warming drinks. Every additional sip of water you take throughout the day helps support good health!
A good winter nutrition plan doesn't have to be complicated. Making just a few small changes to your diet that is aligned with the change in season will go a long way in getting you through these colder months with optimal health.
[Credit: Healthline.com. The Benefits of Vitamin D.]
[Credit: Hamblin, James. Why Vitamins and Other 'Dietary Supplements' Can Contain Anything. The Atlantic.]