Winter Nutrition: What Foods You Should Be Including In Your Diet & Why
The best way to eat as healthily as possible is to eat seasonally. While that may seem like a breeze in the spring and summer months, eating in season during the winter can be a little more difficult. This is especially true for people living in northern climates. That being said, eating in season may not actually be as difficult as you think, and it will benefit your health greatly if you can add some winter powerhouse foods to your diet.
Why is eating healthy in the winter so important?
Winter is pretty synonymous with sickness. There are a couple of good reasons it’s often referred to as “cold and flu season”, after all: the immune system becomes weaker in winter, and viruses find it easier to survive in colder weather.
One particular study found that a biological response in the nasal passageways and airways may be to blame for weakened immunity in the winter. When nasal passages drop in temperature, the body’s immune response have been shown not to be up to par when a virus entered through the airways. Because of this, viruses have an easier time getting into the body, where they can multiply and cause illness.
Other studies have found that illnesses are more prevalent in the winter months because of the way the weather affects the viability of viruses. When temperatures become cold and weather conditions dry, viruses thrive. This makes is much easier for them to infiltrate your defenses and get you sick.
How do you eat healthy in the winter?
Eating healthy in the winter can be a little more challenging than in the summer, because the healthiest way to eat is local and fresh. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense directly after they have been harvested. After this, they continually lose nutrients. By the time long-travelled and out-of-season foods get to your table, they may contain far fewer nutrients than they once did.
If you can’t eat fresh or stick to only winter vegetables and fruits, you can choose frozen options, which retain more nutrients in the freezing process than fresh ones do on the course of their travels to your local supermarket.
Types of food we should eat in the winter season
There are many in-season winter foods that offer a powerful nutrient punch to keep you healthy throughout the season. They include:
Kale can be harvested in the winter, and it is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It is full of vitamins A, C, K, and B and contains calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. All the nutritional benefits of kale will help your body function as it should during the winter.
Kale has one thing in particular that can really keep your immune system up and running: flavonoid antioxidants. These can reduce inflammation in the body, and research has shown that they can reduce the risk of chronic disease while helping the body protect itself against common colds and flus.
Brussels sprouts are another seasonal winter vegetable that can give the body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. They are particularly high in vitamin K, which is vital for both heart health and brain function. Since some research suggests that heart health suffers in the winter, eating Brussels sprouts as part of a balanced diet can help keep your heart functioning properly as the cold weather continues.
Carrots are a versatile vegetable that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Although they can be harvested in the summer, they are best left growing until the fall or winter. Carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene, a plant-pigment that gets converted into vitamin A within the body when consumed.
Vitamin A also has anti-inflammatory effects, which can benefit the proper functioning of the immune system during the cold season. Research suggests that vitamin A enhances the immune system, so getting carrots into your diet is a must this winter.
Swiss chard is a great low-calorie winter food choice. Since exercise is a bit more difficult to accomplish for many people in the winter months, eating Swiss chard may help to keep the winter weight from piling on. Although it’s low-calorie, it’s still nutrient dense and has both vitamin A and vitamin K. Both of these play a role in immune health, so eating more Swiss chard can benefit you greatly during the winter months.
Parsnips are similar to carrots, but they provide their own unique health benefits. The root vegetable is high in vitamin C, another essential vitamin for immune health. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, which can help to protect cells from damage.
Parsnips are also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, and manganese. These three nutrients have great benefits such as protecting nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and regulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
The abovementioned foods are all perfect for winter health protection, and are also quite versatile – you can add them to so many different dishes! Eating healthily all winter long will protect you from illness and disease, and the best way to do that is to eat seasonally.