It's Winter: You Should be Boosting These Nutrients
It’s almost January, and we are just at the end of what feels like a season-long food fest. Halloween to Thanksgiving to Chanukah to Christmas to New Years, and everywhere in between, we are caught up in a whirlwind of bubbly booze, homemade pies, and all-you-can-eat turkey comas.
But that’s life, isn’t it? And we are so grateful that we have the opportunity to enjoy such satiating food, spend time with our loved ones, and create unforgettable memories. It’s a magical time of the year, and we most certainly want to be a part of it, even if that means saying BRB to our Sat morning yoga classes. The only problem is that when we take a dip into indulgence – or full on cannonball in - for an extended period of time and neglect to nourish our bodies with whole, living foods, we begin to suffer a depletion of nutrients. This is when the winter fatigue and blues, and cold and flu start to make their way into our lives. The aftermath of party season can wreak havoc on our bodies, leading to exhaustion, weight gain, and weakened immune systems. The good news is, like anything, if you’re prepared, your body will be able to handle anything – booze and pies included.
One of the reasons we give in to so much indulgence in the cold months is due to a lack of sunlight – aka when our vitamin D and serotonin levels are at an all time low. When it’s cold outside and the days are short, taking the time to seek out and/or prepare a healthy meal is often the last thing on your mind. You want to reach for something warming, comforting, and, very likely, decadent. Preparing a healthy meal can not only be time consuming, but the produce that’s available during the snowy season is frequently expensive and of lesser quality. They key to staying healthy, nourished and happy this winter is to eat for your immune system and arm yourself with the power of plants.
Fuel your body with these key nutrients to keep your immune system operating at full throttle speed all winter long:
- Vitamin D - Vitamin D is important for happiness and overall health. The easiest surefire way to get your vitamin D is through sun exposure. In the winter time when the sun only shows its shining face for a couple of hours a day, and you spend most of your time in doors, it's hard for your body to produce vitamin D. If you can't take a vacation, fear not. The answer to your problems is mushrooms! Studies show that mushrooms exposed to sunlight can multiply their vitamin D content by over 1000 times, so put your store-bought mushrooms in the sun for a few hours to supercharge them with vitamin D!
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C works to boost the immune system by increasing the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, while simultaneously increasing your levels of interferon – the antibody that coats your cell surfaces, blocking the entry of germs and viruses. Eating about 200mg of vitamin C per day is enough to boost your immunity and can easily be consumed through 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Some foods with a high vitamin C content include citrus fruits, guavas, kiwis, dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, and papayas.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E plays an important role in keeping your immune system healthy by stimulating the production of natural killer cells, which seek out foreign invaders in the body (i.e. viruses or cancer cells) and destroy them. It also aids in the production of B cells that produce the antibodies that destroy bacteria. Aside from being an immunity power player, vitamin E is also great for the skin. Great food sources of vitamin E include leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, broccoli, squash, and olive oil.
- Healthy bacteria – Our whole body is made up of trillions of microbes. These little guys living in your gut and keeping you healthy are known as your microbiome. Your microbiome is your body’s internal army that fights off the bad guys, and feeds the good guys. In order to keep them happy and thriving (so that you can be happy and thriving), you must feed them what they love – and that is whole, fiber and nutrient rich foods, lots of produce, and probiotics! Fermented foods, coconut yogurt, and probiotic supplements (we love FLORACOR!) will boost your inner ecosystem.
- Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral that increases the production of white blood cells (which fight infection) and helps them to release more infection-fighting antibodies. Foods that are rich in zinc include beans, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
- Iron – Do you feel exhausted and lethargic in the winter months? An iron deficiency could be responsible. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. When your body is deficient in iron, your body cannot produce enough oxygenating red blood cells, which can result in exhaustion, and in turn take a toll on your immune system. Great sources of iron include edamame, lentils, spinach, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, quinoa, and swiss chard.