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Man and woman walking outside in the cold weather arm in arm wearing winter coats, gloves, and winter hats

How to stay healthy during the winter months

For those of us who embrace colder weather, the transition from fall to winter means more opportunities get cozy by a fire, warm our insides with hot, comforting foods, and anticipate the excitement of the holidays. The downside, however, is that winter also ushers in cold & flu season.

What is it about winter that makes it ‘cold and flu season?’

It’s not the cold weather that makes you sick. But low temperatures make it easier for viruses to replicate. The cold and dry air also negatively affects the respiratory system, which can make it more susceptible to germs.

All this means your body may not be as effective at fighting viruses and why the common cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses spread easily in the winter.

What can you do to help protect yourself this cold and flu season?

Eat for Immunity

woman taking a sip from a ladle over a pot of soup on the stove

The benefits of a diet that consists mostly of whole foods are well documented. Whole foods have lots of vitamins and nutrients to keep your body healthy and are more easily digested than nutrient deficient, processed foods.

When colder weather comes around, it’s extra important to make sure your meals include as many whole foods as possible.

Foods with lots of vitamin C (citrus, peppers, Cruciferous vegetables), zinc (lean meat / poultry, lentils), vitamin D (fish, whole milk), and vitamin A (leafy greens, tomatoes, eggs) are all wonderful options to help support your immune system during cold and flu season.

Maximize your healthy food intake during the winter months by buying what’s currently in season. Fruits like clementines, mandarins, tangerines, and oranges usually reach peak freshness in December.

Hearty root vegetables are available in the winter, as well as beets, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and radishes.

Looking for a recipe idea to help support your immune system? Check out our Lemon Chicken Soup and Chicken Detox Soup.

Stay hydrated

Making sure you drink enough water is important no matter what season it is. Even if you don’t feel hot or thirsty, you should still get as much water into your system as you can.

If you feel like you may have a cold, you can always drink a hot mug of herbal tea. It will help keep you hydrated, plus, drinking warm liquids can be soothing and ease congestion.

Don’t forget that foods can keep you hydrated as well. Fruits, veggies, and soups like our Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup are healthy and delicious options.

Keep active

Man and woman holding hands walking outside on a trail wearing vests and scarves

While it’s more difficult to get outside during the winter depending on where you live, it’s important for your body to remain active. According to research, exercise could bolster immunity in a variety of ways. Plus, with traditionally more significant meals on the calendar during the holidays, getting in some exercise could help you maintain a healthy body weight.

If you’re able to exercise at a gym or prefer winter sports like skiing, that’s great. But there are also plenty of ways to stay active that you can do in your own home or office.

Note, viruses can spread more easily in close quarters, so getting outside whenever possible may help prevent you from getting sick if you’re around a lot of people.

Get some sun and extra vitamin D

Even with shorter days and colder weather, finding time to be outdoors and get some sun is important.

Not only can sunlight help improve your mood, but it’s also a great way to get vitamin D, which has lots of health benefits.

Don’t skimp on sleep

Man in a dark room with their eyes closed sleeping on a bed

Sleep is beneficial to your overall health. And studies show that people who don't get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. And if you do get sick, sleep can also affect how fast you recover. 

Start treating yourself at the first sign of feeling unwell

woman in her kitchen with a blanket over her shoulders clutching a warm cup of tea

If you feel like you’re coming down with the cold or flu, there are some things you can do to treat your symptoms.

Hydration is key. Whether it’s water, broth, or warm tea, liquids can be soothing and help ease congestion.

You can also gargle salt water, which can help reduce the pain and swelling of a sore throat.

Because dry air can worsen a sore throat, try using a humidifier to add moisture into the air. If you don’t have one, you can leave a shallow bowl of water near a heat source to evaporate the water into the air and humidify the room.

Lastly, make sure to get plenty of rest. This will give your body time to recover and recharge.

References:

https://www.cornerstoneuc.com/2020/01/10/why-do-people-get-sick-in-the-wintertime

https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/can-winter-make-you-sick

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-dos-and-donts-of-easing-cold-symptoms

https://www.heart.org/en/news/2021/12/17/can-the-cold-really-make-you-sick

https://time.com/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757

https://aanmc.org/featured-articles/nine-tips-stay-healthy-winter/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-dos-and-donts-of-easing-cold-symptoms

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/07/well/move/exercise-immunity-covid.html

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