Winter is busy, cold, and germ friendly. Let’s discuss some habits and nutrition that can set you up best to combat the winter bugs. These habits aren’t too far off from what we can do year-round to take care of our bodies. When it comes to nutrition, I always say, “If it came out of the ground, we’re doing good.” But there are some specific foods with the most beneficial immune boosting nutrients. This means they are especially good at helping your body fight off infection, reduce the duration of illness, or heal and repair. Hopefully you will gather some new foods to incorporate into your weekly meals but do not forget how important exercise, stress management, sleep, and hand washing is as well. Nutrition is important, but only one habit of many that affect our well-being.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Citrus fruits. Good old vitamin C packs a germ-fighting punch. Our body does not make this vitamin, so it is essential and best that we get it through our diet. The most commonly known source is citrus fruits such as oranges, clementines, lemons, grapefruit, and tangerines.
- Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients. It has vitamin C, A, E, and many more antioxidants, but fiber which is going to keep our gut healthy. Try not to overcook it to keep these nutrients intact! Other cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower are of honorable mention as well.
- Red bell peppers surprisingly have about two times as much vitamin C as these other foods! Chop them up and add them to an omelet, salad, or have them with some hummus.
- Spinach. Popeye was a smart guy! Although you may not grow super human strength with your spinach, you certainly will gain essential nutrients and antioxidants such as flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, and E. Throw a handful in your smoothie and you won’t taste a thing, or start swapping half your lettuce for the greener leaves, if you typically do a head of lettuce or romaine.
Probiotics are best when consumed through whole foods. They are good for enhancing our immune system by keeping our gut armed with healthy bacteria, increasing the amount of antibodies, and maintaining homeostasis in our intestines. Some great sources of probiotics are yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.
Omega 3 is another essential nutrient that our body needs desperately, but does not make. So we must get it through our diet. The massive benefits of omega 3 includes, but is not limited to, a healthier immune system, reduced inflammation, and heart and brain health. The best source is from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, but can also be found in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and avocados.
Spices and Herbs
- Garlic has many super powers, but its sulfur containing compounds give it the immune health benefits such as an anti-microbial effect. It can add a ton of flavor to your food, and to your health.
- Ginger can be great for its antibacterial properties. Not only can it help an upset stomach or nausea if someone is already under the weather but it is a great cancer fighting nutrient. You can use it to flavor a dish or make a hot tea.
- Turmeric has been well studied as a great anti-inflammatory, but has also been shown to boost antibody responses. There are certainly turmeric supplements one could take, but it is also a great addition to a frittata, soups, roasted vegetables, or lightly blended in a smoothie.