Food Agriculture & Nutrition Network of Solano County
Written by Napa State Intern
The Winter season can be a fun and exciting time but it’s also a period of distraction from working toward our best selves. With the holidays ending, it can be challenging to get back into our healthy routines and tend to lose the motivation to stay active and head outdoors. Binge-watching your favorite show along with a warm bowl of yummy chowder can seem much more enticing than braving the cold and getting some physical activity. Well, I don’t blame you! As the temperatures continue to drop and the risks of catching the common cold and flu increase, we want to make sure our bodies are properly nourished to fight off the nasty germs.
Beating the Winter Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common form of depression that can cause one to feel hopeless and uninterested in the activities we normally enjoy. Other symptoms include oversleeping, low energy, and feeling sluggish or agitated. You can help to fight off the winter blues by going outside and getting your dose of sunlight to increase your energy, brighten your spirits, and reduce symptoms of SAD. If you spend most of your time in a closed office feeling like you’ll never see the light of day because of getting in before the sun rises and leaving after it’s gone, try spending your lunch by a window or grab a co-worker for a quick stroll around the building.
Try mood boosting activities the entire family could enjoy such as a trip to the snow, hiking a trail in your area, or ice skating to get your heart rate up and blood flowing.
Boost Your Immune System
As the days get shorter and nights get colder, it’s important to eat foods that will keep our immune system strong. A healthy immune system is the best defense against germs and viruses.
Get your daily fix of fruits and vegetables that are packed with antioxidants such as spinach, blueberries, kale, and beets. If you decide on spending the night hibernating on the couch, do it with a warm mug of green tea. Green tea is filled with polyphenol antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and fight off infections while keeping us warm during the winter season.
Amp up your diet with foods rich in Vitamin C. Studies have shown that 1000-2000mg of Vitamin C can reduce the severity of a cold and shorten its duration. Indulge in foods like kale, strawberries, and citrus fruits like oranges and grape fruit they are all rich in Vitamin C. Try adding dark leafy greens to your stir-fry, salads, or mix a variety of fruits and vegetables in a smoothie—for an easy grab and go snack.
Support the gut flora with high-quality probiotics to strengthen the immune system. Probiotics promote a happy and healthy gut environment by maintaining a balance of good bacteria and actively inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Foods such as yogurt, dark chocolate, and pickles are excellent sources of probiotics. Studies show that adequate amounts of healthy gut bacteria boost our ability to fight off infections.
Finally, choose high-quality carbs as often as you can. Research suggests that the short days and lack of sunlight results in lower levels of serotonin—our “happy hormone.” Our bodies start craving carbohydrate filled comfort foods, which is its way of saying we need more serotonin. Listen to these cravings but be mindful of your choices. Indulge in nutritious carbs such as sweet potato, legumes, and whole grains.
Although there isn’t a magical food that can prevent you from catching a cold or flu, hopefully these healthy nutrition tips can help improve your overall health and amp your body into high defense mode against those invaders!