Along with cold temperatures and shorter days, winter often means a lack of energy and motivation for many people. The motivation for exercising and eating the right foods is very hard to find and this habit of ours can weaken our immune system, making us susceptible to many forms of diseases.
During the winter season, it is not just about how well you cover yourself with layers of woolen clothes, but also what you consume that can help you stay warm. With the falling temperature, our craving for warm temperatures increases and cravings for winter foods. Do you know if you can make changes in your diet, you can actually stay fit and healthy during winters?
Tips for healthy eating during winters
1. Eat mostly whole and less processed foods:
While there is no direct evidence that catching a cold or flu is related to diet, nutrition is important for maintaining the body's immune system during winters. Long hours of darkness during the winters can lead to drop in serotonin levels which may cause sad feelings known as the winter blues. Aim to eat healthy carbohydrates and eliminate intake of processed and packaged food products.
Sources of healthy carbohydrates include – whole grain cereals, oats, nuts and oilseeds, fruits, and brown rice.
Processed and packaged food products – like sweets, bakery products, bread, and items with refined flour should be avoided
2. Eat fruits and vegetables from a rainbow of different colours
Did you know each fruit and vegetable provides you with a different array of nutrients which are good for health? That is right, so make sure to include green, red, yellow, brown, fruits and vegetables in your diet every day. Some examples of immunity boosting nutrients found in food are:
· Vitamin A (or carotenoids) is what gives fruits and vegetables their yellow/orange colours, so foods like pumpkin, carrots and bellpeppers are natural sources of this nutrient. However, you can also find Vitamin A in some green foods, such as dark green vegetables, because chlorophyll which makes them green can mask the yellow/orange. Milk and eggs are also good sources of Vitamin A.
· Vitamin C is not only found in citrus fruits, like oranges but it also is found in kiwi fruit, capsicum, tomatoes, potatoes and berries and broccoli.
· Phytonutrients are compounds found naturally in plants. Phenolics (found in fruits and vegetables) – e.g. brussel sprouts, citrus, kale and parsley are common nutrients which are known to have immune benefits.
3. Include Vitamin D rich foods to your diet
Pandemic and winter, both the situations are forcing us to stay indoors reducing our overall exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of our body. This nutrient helps absorb calcium to boost the health of bones and teeth. Vitamin D is also known to improve the immune system and nervous system and overall health.
Vitamin D rich foods you can add to your winter diet:
· Warm Milk: Milk is an excellent source of Vitamin D. Make turmeric milk, cocoa milk, almonds or soy or any other milk you like.
· Oatmeal: Oatmeal is again an excellent source of Vitamin D. Cook oats with
milk and toss in other ingredients like fruits, nuts and seeds, sweeten it with honey.
· Salmon: Fatty fish are rich in Vitamin D. Saute or grill your salmon fish in butter and season with salt and pepper.
· Mushroom: Mushroom soup is the best thing you can prepare which is rich in Vitamin D. Other alternatives include- mushroom sauce, Indian style mushroom stir fry vegetable.
4. Look after your gut health
Did you know that 70% of your gut health is localized in your gut? It is very important to look after your gut/ stomach health during winters.
Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including whole grains or added fiber will help you keep your gut functions at the best.
Include Probiotic rich foods into your diet plan to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. Probiotics are live bacteria which provide us with a proven health benefit. Probiotics can be found in yogurts, yakult, kefir and fermented food products.
5. Add Omega 3 rich foods to your diet
Omega 3 fatty acid is a nutrient that keeps the body healthy from inside and very helpful during winters. Omega 3 fatty acids can help bring many health benefits to the brain and body. Consumption of foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can keep the heart and the brain healthy.
Omega 3 rich foods you can add to your diet:
· Fish: Omega 3 is abundant in salmon fish. Apart from Omega 3 it contains protein, Vitamin B5, magnesium and potassium. Its consumption can protect the body from many health problems.
· Walnuts: Walnuts are considered to be a good source of Omega 3. You can include walnuts into your diet to strengthen immunity and overcome the deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids.
· Egg: Consumption of eggs during the winter season is very beneficial. Eggs contain protein, vitamins and omega-3 acids. These can help in strengthening immunity.
· Avocado: Avocado is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. By including it in your diet you can strengthen immunity and overcome the deficiency of omega- 3 fatty acids.
· Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. Ground flaxseeds are generally tasteless and can be mixed in yogurt, baked goods or puddings/porridges. Flaxseed oil can be used for salad dressings or drizzled over foods.
6. Get enough Sleep
Research shows, during winters, our immune system weakens and is more prone to picking up on colds and cough. A well-rested immune system with the help of a proper sleeping schedule has shown beneficial effects on our overall health wellbeing. Sleep deficit or poor sleeping patterns may lead to weakening of our immune system.
7. Keep Hydrated
During Winters, hydration is very critical and is linked to supporting your immune system. Adequate amount of fluid intake can help to ease symptoms of cold and flu.
Warm fluids are especially helpful as they can help moisten your throat and loosen mucus. Try to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluid each day. This includes water, tea, soups and other beverages.
8. A moderate level of exercise is recommended
A good moderate amount of physical activity may help to flush the bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells. Exercise also slows down the release of stress hormones. There are plenty of ways you can exercise at home from house walks to at- home yoga.
9. Maintain good hygiene practices
· Practice safe cough/sneeze practices.
· Avoid close contact with those that are already sick.
· Wash and sanitize your hands regularly.
· Keep surfaces clean.
· Follow good food safety practices.
10. Try daily a dose of mindfulness meditation
Meditation boosts antibodies. Meditation also helps to stimulate the brain function regions; these are also the areas of the brain that act as a command center for your immune system. When stimulated through meditation, they make the immune system function more effectively.