Given the scary ability of the flu and common cold, to spread, it’s hard to stay healthy during the long winter months.
But eating right and exercising, rather than using winter’s freezing temperatures as an excuse to hibernate, can help build up your body’s defenses and even reduce the duration of a cold.
Below are six foods that will help keep your body in fighting form. Of course, there’s always a place for mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and other comfort foods for when it’s cold and snowy outside. Just make sure to balance them out with leafy greens and citrus fruits.
1. Winter Squash. Root vegetables broadly are a great food genre to explore in the winter, and winter squash is low in fat and high in dietary fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C; it’s also hearty and keeps you feeling full. So it’s a healthy alternative to some of that heavy (delicious) comfort food mentioned above.
2. Pomegranate. From a food perspective, the worst thing about winter is probably the lack of fresh produce. There’s simply no comparison between a hothouse tomato and a vine-ripened one. To save your taste buds from disappointment, the trick is to look for fruits and veggies that are in season, like pomegranates. They’re said to have three times the antioxidants – those anti-cancer agents – as either green tea or wine. You can also get the health benefits from drinking pomegranate juice.
3. Kale. As a winter vegetable, kale is readily available and a hearty ingredient to add to your salads, soups and stews. (The same goes for other leafy greens like collards, escarole and mustard greens.) Kale’s also rich in nutrients like vitamin C, iron, magnesium and beta-carotene.
4. Citrus fruits. Here’s something your mother got right: oranges are, in fact, very good for you. They’re loaded up with vitamin C; one medium orange actually provides 100 percent of your recommended daily dose. Grapefruit has the same benefit, as do lemons and limes, though we wouldn’t seriously suggest you bite into one of those.
5. Turkey. Yes, it’s top of mind in the lead-up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that’s not (entirely) why we’re recommending it. The fact is that it’s a lean, low-calorie protein source, and that can be helpful in the winter months when you’re almost certainly doing less physical activity. It’s also full of nutrients like vitamin B, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc – and we all know to take zinc for colds.
6. Oatmeal. Full of fiber and other nutrients like thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, oatmeal is undoubtedly good for you, not to mention pleasant to wake up to on a chilly winter morning. Unfortunately the sweetened “peaches and cream” variety is not healthy, but we doubt that comes as a surprise.
Are there other foods you swear by to keep you healthy in the winter? On the hydration side of things, here’s our rundown on the health benefits of various teas.