How to Stay Healthy During the Colder Months
The colder, and in some cases, wetter
weather is upon us, and with it comes those chunky knits, hearty soups and hot
water bottles. Unfortunately, winter also brings with it annoying coughs,
scratchy throats and sniffles – that’s why it’s important for you and your
family to maintain strong immune systems and stay healthy as temperatures
decrease. There is no way to make sure that you won’t fall ill, but there are a
few things you can do to try and prevent it.
A big part of staying healthy relates to eating correctly and making sure that you and your family are getting enough nutrients from the food that you eat. There are certain vital vitamins and minerals that help your immune system to function optimally during winter. Eating foods that provide these will help you to fight viruses and bacteria and to remain healthy.
This is the most obvious cold and flu fighter and is found in foods such as berries, citrus fruits and dark green vegetables. Vitamin C is required for the proper development and function of many parts of the body and helps maintain adequate immune function. Make sure that your winter diet consists of large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables to get the levels of this vitamin your body needs.
Zinc plays an important role in the development and functioning of white blood cells (infection-fighting cells). It is found in seafood, wholegrain bread, nuts and lean red meat. On average, an adult requires 8-12mg of Zinc a day.
Found in oily fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, as well as in nuts and flaxseed oil, Omega-3 fats help reduce inflammation in the body and help protect against colds.
The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but as this is something that tends to be lacking during the winter months, you may need to supplement with foods. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and also helps to keep colds at bay, and it’s found in foods such as egg yolks, mushrooms and fatty fish. While a few minutes of safe sun exposure is still optimal, you can consider eating more of these foods to get your daily dose.
Roughly 80% of our immune system is found in the digestive system, so having a healthy gut means having a strong immune defence. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that your digestive system needs to help it absorb certain nutrients and can be found in fermented foods, such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha.
HELPFUL HINT: Avoid processed foods, and up your intake of garlic. This potent superfood has been used for centuries to treat sickness, but it also helps to boost the immune system.
It’s important to get enough sleep each night as this is when the body repairs and resets itself. As an adult, you should be sleeping about seven to eight hours a night, especially if your immune system is compromised or you are under a great deal of stress. Lack of sleep can aggravate existing medical problems and can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infection. Infants and young children require even more hours of sleep because they are still growing.
Staying hydrated is key to remaining healthy, as water plays a vital role in many of the body’s daily processes. Water is responsible for the production of lymph, the fluid that carries white blood cells around the body. Without these cells, the body is unable to ward off illness. Drinking enough water during winter can be hard. When it’s cold, the last thing you want to do is drink a cold drink.
To combat this you can drink herbal teas or infusions of hot water with ginger and lemon. Caffeinated drinks are dehydrating so limit your coffee and tea intake. Add a cup of green tea a day, even though it has caffeine in it, it’s also full of antioxidants and can increase the body’s metabolic rate.
Even though it’s cold, make a concerted effort to exercise regularly as it helps the body to release toxins, get stronger and release endorphins (the chemicals that make you feel happy). Even if you take a 15 minute walk around the block every second day, your body will thank you for it.
Doing what you can to help yourself and your family remain strong and healthy this winter doesn’t have to be difficult. By being aware of what the body needs to fight against illness and ensuring it gets it, you’ll have a very good chance of avoiding getting sick this winter season.