The holidays are over, a new year has started, we are back to the grind, and have a long winter ahead of us. With it comes cold and flu season, and to top it off, a lack of fresh, local produce (if you live in the north). We also may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Eating nutritiously this time of year can be challenging.
Luckily, there are ways to boost both our immune system and mood to help the winter months be healthy. All it takes is a trip to the produce section of your local super market. And since most produce right now is imported and not in season, if you can’t find a good price, head over to the frozen section as a backup.
While practicing good hygiene is the number one way to ward off a cold, eating foods that boost our immune system will help with the duration and severity of an illness. Make sure to include plenty of these foods to keep you feeling your best.
Vitamin C Rich Foods
While most people think citrus when they hear vitamin C, red bell peppers actually have more! They are also rich in beta carotene. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells which are key to fighting infections. Other sources of vitamin C are broccoli, spinach, papaya, pumpkin, sweet potato, cabbage, and kiwi.
Herbs and Spices
Garlic, ginger and turmeric are all thought to prevent a cold from sticking in the first place but also fight inflammation. Add these spices to your cooking or your smoothies for an immune boost. Ask your physician if these are safe for you because some people are allergic to ginger and turmeric and they may interfere with blood clotting in some individuals.
Poultry is high in vitamin B-6 which helps to promote healthy red blood cells. Save money by purchasing a whole chicken or turkey breast on the bone. When done, save the bones, and make your own broth in the crock-pot. The broth contains nutrients for boosting immunity and gut health. (See recipe below)
Plain Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi, fermented tofu and sauerkraut all boost healthy gut bacteria. Our guts say more about our health that we realize. Restoring our healthy bacteria helps ward off infections. A pro-biotic supplement can also be used.
Green tea contains polyphenols which contain powerful antioxidant properties to ward off infections by stimulating certain cells that combat viruses.
Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency, which is common in the north could lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Person’s affected by this may feel sad, anxious, or irritable. A simple blood test can tell you if you are deficient and supplementation may be in order. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, mushrooms, cod liver oil, oily fish, tofu (organic), and dairy products.
Eating a well-balanced diet with enough nutrients is key to keeping healthy, happy and strong during the winter (and all seasons). With a little planning, being proactive to our health can keep the germs away!
Immune Boosting Bone Broth
1 whole chicken carcass
6 cups water
2 carrots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 small onion chopped
2T Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1T Italian seasoning
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Any additional herbs
Place all ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 12 hours. When done, discard the bones and vegetables, and pour broth through a fine mesh sieve. When cooled, skim off the fat that forms on top (optional). Use broth within 3 days or freeze for future use.