Winter Vitamins and Minerals
Have you ever noticed that as the days get colder some people catch every bug that is around and other people are always bursting with health and energy. Well it is usually down to our immune systems and to keep them up and running you need to ensure you are getting your daily dose of vitamins.
By eating a balanced diet you will keep your immune system good all winter. Many experts believe that antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E can help give your immune system a big boost and reduce the risk of serious illness. So by choosing foods with high antioxidant levels you will be doing just that. Another easy way to get more antioxidant vitamins into your diet is to drink more green tea, try taking just one cup a day and building up slowly as the days get colder and the nights get longer.
Vitamin C won’t prevent you from catching colds and flu, but it can reduce the length and severity of symptoms. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and protects your body against disease including heart disease and cancer. It is vital for the production of collagen, used to build body tissue and bones. By eating a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables every day you will have a balanced intake of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries and cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. Green vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and beans all contain high levels.
Vitamin A is important for repairing tissues needed for growth and development. It is also essential for strengthening the immune system and maintaining good eyesight. By including milk, fortified margarines, egg yolks, liver, fatty fish (herrings, tuna, pilchards and sardines), carrots, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, mango and apricots, you will be including this important vitamin in your diet.
We get most of our vitamins from our food and drink, but much of our supply of vitamin D comes from our exposure to sunlight. During winter, not only do we see less sunshine, and even when the sun is out, many of us are stuck in our offices or workplaces, but when we do venture outside, our skin is covered up because of the low temperatures. So it is important that you’re getting enough vitamin D in your food. Good sources include dairy products, oily fish such as salmon or sardines, margarine and eggs.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant protecting cell membranes from damage, and is thought to protect against some cancers and heart disease. Try including nuts and seeds, sunflower oil as well as green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach and cabbage) and cereals in your daily diet.
If you’re worried about the lack of fresh vegetables in the winter months, you needn’t be. Often fast-frozen vegetables have a higher vitamin content than their ‘fresh’ counterparts. That’s because freezing keeps the vitamins locked into the vegetables, whereas food that’s been stacked in a cardboard box or sitting in a cupboard has been losing its vitamin content day by day.
Iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. A good intake of iron is necessary for energy, intellectual performance and vitality. A lack of iron leads to anaemia – where the body is unable to transport oxygen around the body causing lethargy and listlessness. Red meat is a rich source of iron. Other sources include cereal products, bread, flour, eggs, beans, lentils and dried fruit. Taking Vitamin C alongside iron helps with its absorption.
Selenium is an essential mineral that makes up part of the enzymes that defend the body against damage. As an antioxidant it strengthens the immune system and is thought to protect against cancer, especially of the prostate. The best source of selenium can be found in Brazil nuts, but other reasonable sources include shellfish, fish, liver, red meat, poultry and wheat.
It is so easy once the weather changes to forget the healthy salads and snacking on fruit and creep onto that sofa to curl up with some stodgy puds, cakes, chocolate – comfort food! So minimise the comfort eating, nourish yourself with hearty stews and soups full with vegetables. Don’t give into too much alcohol and try to keep your diet varied and balanced. You’ll find yourself still fighting fit come springtime.