Nutrition

Winter Nutrition

FOODS TO BOOST IMMUNITY

Feeling under the weather?  Although nothing can stop a cold, a healthy immune system is your best defense against the germs that cause colds and the flu.  Supplementing with vitamin C won’t reduce your chance of getting a cold but it may help shorten the duration and severity of the cold according to Healthline.  To reach the high level of vitamin C required to reduce symptoms of a cold, higher than usual doses of supplements may be necessary but keep in mind that overuse of vitamin C can have adverse effects like digestive distress such as diarrhea and nausea.  Vitamin C can also enhance iron absorption so those people who are at risk for iron accumulation in the body, such as hemochromatosis, should take extra caution when taking vitamin C supplements.  In these individuals, excessive amounts of vitamin C can lead to iron overload that can cause serious damage to the heart, liver, pancreas, thyroid, and central nervous system.  Keep in mind, this type of overload is more likely to occur if extra iron is taken in supplement form.

How Does Vitamin C Work?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is necessary for collagen production in the skin.  Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals that aids in keeping skin and other tissues tough but flexible.  In the immune cells of the body, vitamin C is present in highly concentrated amounts.  During an infection, this concentration depletes very quickly and therefore a deficiency of vitamin C in the body leads to a weakened immune system and increased risk for infection.  Healthline reports that some studies have shown that use of 6 to 8 grams of vitamin C per day has been effective in shortening the duration of colds in adults.  To meet the basic vitamin C requirements, whole food sources of the vitamin is generally a better idea.  Good sources of vitamin C are foods like oranges, kale and red bell peppers.  You may also consider eating foods containing probiotics or friendly flora to help replenish quantities of the healthy bacteria in the body, which may help protect against further infections.  Foods containing probiotics include fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut.  Since these can contain extra calories, sugar, or salt, you can opt to take a probiotic in a supplement form.

Knock Out the Winter Blues with Mood Enhancing Foods

Food makes up a large part of colder weather celebrations from Halloween all the way to Valentine’s Day.  Eating healthy throughout the holidays can be very stressful, which can make changing habits very difficult.  You can experience negative effects on the immune system with the addition of highly refined sugar and alcohol intake, which can also lead to unwanted weight gain and mood changes.  The decreased sunlight exposure experienced during the winter months also affects mood by decreasing serotonin levels in the body.  This can lead to higher incidence of depression that can often cause unhealthy food cravings.  To help combat these negative effects, try taking a walk outdoors on your lunch break or moving your desk closer to the window so you can absorb more sunlight during the day.  Naturally boost serotonin levels from your diet by eating foods like tofu, eggs, turkey, or salmon.  Exercise is another great way to improve your mood as it is actually known as a natural antidepressant.

Winter: A time for warm, hearty comfort foods

Slow cooking gives you the opportunity to save time and money and can increase fruit and vegetable intake in children and adults.  Making meals in the slow cooker can help novice cooks become more comfortable in the kitchen and it gives busy families the chance to eat more healthy meals at home.  In many instances, slow cooker recipes include a variety of vegetables and cooking slowly at a lower temperatures means that the nutrients in all those vegetables can be better preserved.  An added bonus is that the cooking liquid is often consumed as part of the dish, so none of the nutrients are lost.

TRY THESE HEALTHFUL SLOW COOKING TIPS

Keep the Lid On.

Slow cooking gives you the opportunity to save time and money and can increase fruit and vegetable intake in children and adults.  Making meals in the slow cooker can help novice cooks become more comfortable in the kitchen and it gives busy families the chance to eat more healthy meals at home.  In many instances, slow cooker recipes include a variety of vegetables and cooking slowly at a lower temperatures means that the nutrients in all those vegetables can be better preserved.  An added bonus is that the cooking liquid is often consumed as part of the dish, so none of the nutrients are lost.

No need to presoak most dry lentils and beans.

Slow cooking is one of the best ways to cook pulses perfectly every time.  These inexpensive protein sources work great in the slow and steady heat of the slow cooker.  Keep in mind, kidney beans contain a toxin that causes gastrointestinal distress so this type of bean must be brought to a full boil for 10 minutes on the stovetop prior to adding them to the slow cooker.

Layer the vegetables to preserve their texture.

Hearty vegetables like potatoes and squash can be placed at the bottom of the cooker while more delicate vegetables like spinach or broccoli do best when added to the top during the last 30 minutes of cooking.  For the middle of the cooker, vegetables like carrots, onions, or peppers hold up well.

Don’t throw out the excess liquid. 

You can make instant gravy by adding a thickening agent to the liquid such as flour, cornstarch, or cooked roux.

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