It’s easy to lose track of your health goals once the cold weather and shorter days kick in. But eating healthily over the winter will help you sidestep seasonal bugs and maintain the energy levels you need over party season. And if you keep on top of your vitamin and mineral requirements – you’ll be more than ready when spring is back in the air!
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is everyone’s go-to winter supplement – and while it can’t actually ward of a cold it will work to boost your immune system and shorten the life of any infection you pick up. Vitamin C is an antioxidant – and so it works to protect body cells and keeps them healthy. It plays a vital role in the production of collagen, so it helps to keep everything from blood vessels to bones in tip top condition.
You can find vitamin C in most fresh fruit and veg – but good sources include citrus fruits, such as oranges, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cranberries and blackcurrants, red and green peppers, potatoes and even green veggies like broccoli, sprouts and cabbage.
If you find your energy levels dipping with the temperature, you could be iron deficient. The primary function of iron is to create red blood cells – and it’s those cells that carry oxygen around the body, repairing any damage and ensuring major organs are functioning correctly. You are at risk of anaemia <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia if you don’t get enough iron – although too much iron (through supplements for example) can also be dangerous.
Dietary sources of iron include cereal products, bread, flour,beans, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, tomato sauce, some nuts and dried fruit. It’s a good idea to eat foods rich in vitamin C foods at the same time as those with iron in as this will help with mineral absorption.
- Vitamin D
From late March/early April to the end of September we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure – so in the UK the winter can prove challenging! However, without vitamin D we struggle to absorb calcium – essential for our bones – and fight off infection. Deficiency in vitamin D is linked to higher risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Signs that you’re not getting enough Vitamin D include muscle weakness, unexplained fatigue and difficulty thinking clearly.
A bracing walk on sunnier days is the best way to soak up this essential vitamin, although you can also consider taking a supplement of 10 micrograms a day, if you know you aren’t eating well or getting outside in daylight hours. Food sources of vitamin D include include mushrooms, fortified soy and almond milk – and fortified tofu.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids affect many processes within the body – including brain function and concentration and work as anti-inflammatories. Topping up your levels is also though to reduce your risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) < https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/#.Wgrtj8acaqA>. Omega 3 also helps burn fat, helps your thyroid, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Find omega 3 in vegetable oils, rapeseed and linseed, nuts – such as walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts – and green leafy vegetables. You can also find the nutrient in fish and shellfish, soya and soya products, eggs and some brands of milk, yoghurt, bread and spreads.
- Vitamin E
If you find yourself with dry skin nails, and hair in wintertime, chances are you could be lacking vitamin E. This antioxidant helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthens the body’s natural defence against illness and infection. As well as being considered essential for soft skin – and often touted an anti-aging boost, vitamin E also protects from cell damage – meaning it could help prevent some cancers and heart disease.
Vitamin E is readily available in lots of foods, including almonds, green veg like spinach, sweet potato, avocado, butternut squash, oils such as olive and soya, sunflower seeds and wheatgerm (found in cereals and cereal products). The really good news is that any vitamin E your body doesn’t need immediately is stored for future use.
Vanessa Holburn is a freelance health and pets writer and blogs at AHappyHealthyMummy.com. Her digital work dates back to the late 90s – and she was the driving force behind the UK launch of the NetDoctor brand. She has contributed to titles as varied as Woman’s Own, Dogs Today, Ask The Doctor, Yours and The Independent on Sunday.