Nutritional Needs in the Winter
How are you coping with the change in the weather? There are definitely a lot more bugs and viruses at this time of year. How are you meant to support your immune system when faced with all these sneezes, coughs and cold weather? I recently contributed to a an article on this very subject for Stylist Magazine. I will share with you what I wrote for it so that you can help yourself this winter. Please do get in touch if you have any questions or require any support
During the winter our nutritional needs change from the spring and summer seasons. Our requirement for vitamins and minerals increase as well as our caloric intake. When the weather is cold outside, our bodies need to warm up and this requires more energy. Heat loss if the surrounding environment is cold, requires some compensatory strategies, and increasing food intake for its thermic effect will provide warmth, basically eating produces heat. We also need to be aware of increasing certain vitamins and minerals in our diet for boosting our immune systems and maintaining optimal health.
Vitamin D is lower in the winter months as the sun in the UK isn’t at the correct levels to convert its rays to Vitamin D via our skin. Vitamin D is vitally important for not just bones and teeth, but also supporting immune health and regulating mood. The NHS suggests a daily supplement during the autumn and winter of 400 IU per day for those over 1 yrs of age, but you can also boost these levels through diet by eating Oily fish, eggs, dairy and mushrooms.
Zinc helps to support your immune systems as it is crucial for the normal development and function of those cells such as neutrophils that fight viruses. This mineral isn’t naturally produced in the body, yet it is found in every cell in your body, so having good sources in your diet is key for health. Zinc is found in meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, eggs and wholegrains. Iron, the most abundant mineral in the body, is also important, as low iron can lead to anaemia which makes you feel cold. Iron is best absorbed in the body with a source of vitamin C, so a steak and broccoli could be a beneficial meal.
Vitamin C is well known to be important in the winter months. Vitamin C contributes to the immune system by supporting the function of various immune cells and by being a potent antioxidant. It also helps a process called phagocytosis, where immune cells kill off microbes. If Vitamin C is deficient in the body this can lead to impaired immunity and increased risk of infections. Good sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts.
Mood may be low in the winter months due to less sunlight and less time outdoors, leading to low energy and symptoms of depression. You can help these symptoms by eating a healthy diet with proteins, good fats, and complex carbohydrates. Reaching for refined carbohydrates and sugar will lower mood even further. Including Vitamin D type foods and sources of B12 will help these feelings.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in serotonin production, your ’happy hormone’, as well as improving energy, therefore good levels of B12 will support mood. B12 is found mainly in animal products, such as beef, dairy and oily fish but vegans can get B12 from Nutritional yeast.
Help yourself during these months to prepare healthy food by batch cooking so there is always something to have when you don’t feel like cooking or put on the slow cooker in the morning so you can come home to a healthy and easily digestible meal.
Making sure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet, get outside for exercise and walks in nature and reducing stress will help you get through the winter months without being too affected by it.