Winter is here!
One of the most important ways to strengthen your immune system and performance is through absorbing the daily nutrients we get from our food.
In winter the days get shorter and as the temperature starts to drop there is a greater tendency to stay indoors where it is warm, be less active and eat comfort foods.
With the colder winter weather come coughs, colds and the flu season, plus, for some of us, winter weight gain. It’s an important time to make sure you stay on top of your diet and keep yourself well-nourished.
Sticking to a healthy diet won’t prevent you from picking up winter illnesses, but it can help maintain your immune system to better protect you. And should you fall ill, a nutritious diet can help speed up your recovery.
The range of seasonal fruit and vegetables declines at this time of year, and the weather can make getting out and about less appealing. However, while daylight may be in short supply, there are still ways that you can look after your diet and your heart health. Here, we share our tips on how to get through a cold winter’s day.
To help you get started, we offer 7 areas to focus on improving your diet this winter.
1.Focus on Healthy Carbs
The longer hours of darkness during the winter can lead to drops in serotonin levels, which may cause the sad feelings known as the winter blues. It can even bring on some food cravings. Eating healthy carbohydrates can boost serotonin. Try:
• Whole grains
• Sweet potatoes
2.Consider Adding Vitamins C, D, and Zinc Supplements to Your Diet
Vitamin supplements, like vitamin C, D, and zinc, can help meet the challenges of staying healthy in the winter.
• Vitamin C, found naturally in fruits and vegetables, can help boost your immune system and prepare you to fight a cold or the flu.
• Vitamin D is mood-lifting and can be produced by the body with the help of sunlight. But since natural sunlight in winter isn’t abundant, you should seek out food containing Vitamin D to match your deficit.
• Vitamin D sources are primarily foods such as fish (e.g., salmon, tuna and cod), eggs, avocado and mushrooms. Adding supplements to your diet this winter may help reduce your risk of developing depression and unhealthy cravings.
• Zinc, naturally found in fish, dairy, eggs and some cereals, can also help ward off infections.
- Opt for seasonal products
Keep your diet full of your favourite fruits and vegetables this winter. Be on the lookout for regional and seasonal fruits and vegetables, since valuable ingredients can be lost by lengthy transport and storage times.
Some of the most winter varieties such as pumpkin, chicory, radicchio and warming root vegetables include carrots, radish, potatoes, onions, garlic are particularly good at this time of year. These veggies are digested slower in the body, which generates more heat. Include more of these vegetables in your winter diet to stay warm. Some of these vegetables are seasonal and fresh, and hence, are even healthier for the body.
With fruits, choose varieties that are harvested in late autumn, such as apples, pears, pomegranates, oranges and grapes.
4.Nuts keep you awake
Prolonged periods of low sunlight also means that more of the sleep hormone melatonin is produced. This makes you tired, sluggish and unmotivated. To keep this in check, you need melatonin’s opponent, serotonin, which is formed from the amino acid tryptophan. All kinds of nuts, from peanuts and cashews to hazelnuts and also sunflower seeds provide you with this valuable substrate.
5.Use Honey as Your Sweetener
Swap processed sugar with honey as a sweetener for your winter beverages. Honey is naturally warm can even be added to hot salads as a salad dressing. However, diabetics may want to exercise caution while using honey during winters.
Another excellent natural sweeteners to consume during winters are Figs and dates, rich in calcium and iron and are both warmings in nature. They also boost body energy.
6.Warm-up from the inside
As a general focus, make sure many hot foods and drinks with lots of spices should be on your menu. These warm your organs and muscles internally, stimulate blood circulation and metabolism, while developing resistance to low temperatures. By using spices like cloves, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg in your meals, you can not only jazz up the flavour of your food but also prepare delicious teas. These spices can be added to curries, teas and coffees and essentially to any wintery hot beverage.
Wintertime hydration is still an important consideration despite the cold weather. Lower temperatures, sweating less and a general lack of thirst may mean that exercisers and non-exercisers alike drink less water and, instead, drink more comforting hot beverages such as tea, coffee, soup and chocolate.
While it’s cold, your caffeine fix may seem even more attractive because it helps keep you warm. While their caffeine content means that urine output increases which could cancel out some of their contribution to hydration. To remedy this, try replacing some caffeinated beverages with caffeine-free alternatives such as herbal and fruit tea, soup, warm water with lemon, decaffeinated coffee and tea. Adding tea to your diet can not only help keep you warm but also has been linked to:
• Preventing some illnesses.
• Building up immunity.
• Stimulating metabolism.
So, apart from keeping your extremities (hands, head and toes) covered during winters, you may want to follow the above-mentioned diet tips to keep warm naturally during winters. Prevention is better than a cure for the winter blues so put these tips into action to stay on track this winter.
Priyanshi Bhatnagar, a US Certified Holistic Nutritionist Founder of Online Nutrition Company “Detoxpri.in” : A Simple Way To Eat for healthy mind, body & soul and an Author of CONFESSION of a Foodie Nutritionist : A Revolutionary guide to transform your Relationship with Food. She can be reached at www.detoxpri.in