As the chill sets in, so does the need to build up our defenses against seasonal bugs. Today, I want to talk about how we can give our immunity a boost through smart nutrition. And bonus, all of these recommendations work wonders on your metabolism too! Efficiency, am I right?! So, grab a cozy blanket and let’s get started!
Understanding Winter Immunity Challenges
Winter comes with its unique set of challenges for our immune system. The cold and flu season is in full swing, sunlight is scarce, and we’re spending more time indoors, increasing our exposure to viruses. And if you have small kids, they’re usually bringing those little germs home from school. But don’t worry, our diet can be a powerful ally in keeping the immune system fired up.
Key Nutrients for Immune Support
Vitamin C: The Immune-Boosting Powerhouse
When we think about immunity, I think we immediately think about vitamin C and its powers. We usually think about citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits but you’ll also find vitamin C in berries and bell peppers too! These gems are not just delicious; they pack a punch when it comes to supporting our immune system and fighting off viruses. And bonus: it gives us really great skin too! So make sure to throw a mandarin orange or some berries onto your lunch plate or into your afternoon smoothie!
Vitamin D: Sunshine Vitamin for Immune Health
With less sunlight during the winter, our vitamin D levels usually take a hit. Vitamin D isn’t found many places naturally in the diet, but you can find some in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and fortified dairy or plant-based milk in your diet. You can also find it in egg yolks as well. It’s estimated that up to roughly 40% of Americans may be deficient in vitamin D. If you’re someone who doesn’t eat many of these sources or you live in an area without much sunlight or you don’t spend much time outdoors, you may want to talk with your health care provider about supplementation. While small doses of vitamin D are generally safe, you can develop Vitamin D toxicity, so check with your provider before increasing your dosage on your own.
Zinc: A Trace Mineral with Immune Benefits
I love zinc, y’all. I really do. It’s a little mineral that doesn’t get enough love in my opinion. Your body doesn’t store up zinc so you need to get it consistently through your diet. Zinc plays a crucial role in immune function. Load up on zinc-rich foods such as red meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Zinc really can make a big difference in supporting your immune system and with tissue healing. But that’s not all….. Guess what else zinc helps with? Metabolism! Zinc helps your thyroid and metabolism function appropriately. While most people shouldn’t need a zinc supplement, you should absolutely try to get a good variety in the foods that you eat.
Winter Superfoods for Immunity
Now, let’s review some winter superfoods that can become your immune system’s best friends. Don’t forget to add these to your cart next time you grocery shop!
- Citrus Fruits
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Berries (fresh or frozen)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Garlic and Onions
Nutrition Tips for Winter Wellness
To keep your immune system in top shape, consider these nutrition tips:
- Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into all of your meals. We should be aiming for 5 total servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This means you should be trying to eat a serving about every time you eat. These can be fresh or frozen and even canned will work, though use those less frequently if you’re able.
- Ensure each meal includes a source of lean protein. Did you know that protein helps make antibodies? And we definitely need those for immunity! And don’t forget that many protein sources also contain zinc – that mineral that also helps with immunity.
- Stay hydrated. You should shoot for about half your body weight in lbs in daily ounces of water. For example if you weigh 160 lbs, you should aim to drink at least 80 oz per day. This will keep your immune function from being sluggish and help it to run at full speed.
- Limit processed foods and refined sugars. Excess sugar and processed foods can increase inflammation throughout your body which is the exact opposite of what you want for your immune system. These foods can also disrupt your gut microbiome which negatively affects your immunity as well. A little of these foods from time to time in small quantities are okay, but work to eat more whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible!
- Exercise! I know it’s not nutrition related but it does help with immunity! Exercise increases the circulation of immune cells that help fight off infection. It also helps decrease inflammation overall in the body as well.
Recipe Ideas for Immune-Boosting Meals
Looking for meal ideas to help improve your immunity? Try one of these three immune-boosting recipes:
- Apple Cranberry Kale Salad
- Ingredients: Kale, apple, bacon, almonds, feta cheese, cranberries and a tangy sweet vinaigrette.
- Berry Immune Smoothie
- Ingredients: Greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, orange juice, milk
- Chicken in Roasted Pepper Sauce
- Ingredients: Chicken breast, onion, red roasted bell pepper, spinach, garlic, and more
Lifestyle Factors & Supplements for Immunity
Remember, while your diet can play a huge role in immunity this winter, there are other areas that play a huge role. Adequate sleep, exercise, stress management, and even a little increased cleaning and hand washing can really help!
Keep in mind that while a well-rounded diet should be the primary focus, supplements can bridge the gap. If considering supplements, consult with a healthcare professional. Vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc supplements may be beneficial additions, especially in the winter months.
Want to Supercharge Your Winter Wellness?
Andddddd if you’re ready to take your winter wellness to the next level would like guidance and accountability, apply for my coaching program! Discover personalized nutrition plans, expert guidance, and a supportive community to revitalize your metabolism and embrace a healthier, happier you. I’d love to work with you! Apply HERE
Here’s to a season of good health, hearty meals, and a robust immune system. Stay warm and well!