What words do you associate with winter? Here are some of mine: snow, cold, pajamas, hot chocolate, fuzzy blankets, Christmas trees, presents, brussel sprouts, collard greens, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, grapefruits, tangerines. It is important to stock your pantry with lots of foods that will boost your immune system during the coldest months of the year. With the right vitamins, minerals, and foods there is no reason to battle the winter blues and flues this year!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3's are the "good fats” and great for reducing inflammation, which is often related to getting sick. The best food sources for these are fatty fish like wild salmon, anchovies, and sardines. Nuts and seeds are also good, especially walnuts, flax seeds (and flax oil), chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Spinach is also known to be relatively high in omega-3's. In fact, all leafy greens contain them, but spinach has the highest levels. Remember, you can add seeds and flax oil to your smoothie to help you keep up with your daily omega-3 intake.
Sunlight is the best place to get vitamin D, but with the lack of sunshine during the winter months, vitamin D can be hard to come by. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your diet will increase your immune system and help lower those winter blues.
Food-wise, good sources of vitamin D are egg yolks and again, fatty fish, salmon, tuna, sole, as well as shiitake mushrooms and whole milk.
B vitamins are known to support neurological health, especially vitamin B3 and folate (or folic acid) which helps manufacture neurotransmitters like serotonin. In terms of immunity, all B vitamins also help promote white blood cell production to help fight infections.
Some good food sources for B vitamins are Brazil nuts, avocados, oats and eggs. Brazil nuts have an additional trace mineral, called selenium. This mineral has antioxidant properties which can boost your immune system and enhance your mood.
B12 is another important B vitamin. Only found in meat, dairy, or egg products, but some foods are fortified with B12. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may consider taking a supplement. Beef is also one of the best sources of vitamin B-12 and organ meats are one of the top sources of iron. Remember, when buying meat, look for grass fed beef to take advantage of additional nutrition.
Everyone knows that vitamin C is an immune-boosting superpower. It is also high in antioxidants and can increase energy levels. While most people associate fruits, in particular citrus, with vitamin C, there are other foods that are high in vitamin C. Leafy greens are huge, including kale, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, parsley, broccoli… the list is endless!
Magnesium is another important mineral that is known for reducing stress and strengthening your immune system. Food sources are all the dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds such as almonds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed, and pecans. Additionally, fish like halibut, salmon and mackerel are a good source, as well as avocados, bananas, dark chocolate, and full fat yogurt. Magnesium and calcium are a wonderful health duo because when you’re getting enough magnesium, this makes it easier for your body to absorb calcium.
There is so much overlap in these foods containing all these vitamins and minerals. It simply highlights why a balanced diet is optimum for winter health! Stay warm!