The Foods You Need to Eat More of in the Winter

Winter is filled with holiday traditions, ski trips and a whole bunch of cozy time indoors to relax with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can come with some downsides like greater chances of catching a cold or getting the flu, dry or cracked skin and possibly less time spent outdoors. All of these factors can lead to a lacking of some key nutrients.

We’ve zeroed in on a few winter struggles, along with certain nutrients that may help combat them.

Immune Function

Come winter, the likelihood of getting sick is high. It is cold and flu season and also a popular travel time. Plus, the holidays mean that you might be consuming fewer vegetables and more sweets — which can decrease your immunity. Vitamin C and zinc are two powerhouses to focus on this season.

Vitamin C

In the winter time, vitamin C helps prevent immune deficiency and lessens your chances of getting sick. However, you don’t need to go running to find your nearest vitamin C drink loaded with fake vitamins and sugar. There are so many foods rich in vitamin C that go beyond citrus. Non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, kale, bell peppers and brussel sprouts are all great sources, as well as fruits like papayas and strawberries.

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that is just as important for immune function as vitamin C. Zinc acts as an antioxidant in our body and is known to help with decreasing the severity or onset of infections. This is very important during a time when infectious diseases are spreading faster than other times of the year. Proteins like oysters, crab, poultry, beans, yogurt and nuts are all great sources of zinc!

Vitamin D Deficiency

Our main source of vitamin D comes from the sun — and if you don’t live in a warm climate, we don’t have to remind you that you may not see that every day. Not having appropriate exposure to sunlight during the winter months can cause one to become deficient.

Vitamin D

To combat the potential for becoming vitamin D deficient, try two things: aim to spend at least 15 minutes during the day outside or opt to consume food sources of vitamin D. These include vitamin D fortified milk and nut milk, mushrooms, eggs and fatty fish. If you know you already have a difficult time absorbing vitamin D from foods, take advice from your doctor on how to treat with supplements.

Dry Skin

Dry skin, hair and cracked lips are all side effects of harsh weather. Yes, there are lip salves, exfoliators and thick body creams that can help remedy the external area of your skin — but did you know you can also eat your way to smoother, moisturized skin from the inside out? Our skin needs certain nutrients to help repair itself and stay hydrated at the cellular level.

Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats

There are certain foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats that help skin stay smooth and supple. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, and trout all contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which help retain moisture and help strengthen your skin’s barrier. Not eating fish? Chia seeds, flax seeds and algae like seaweed are all great vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of monounsaturated fats like avocado, nuts and olive oil are all great as well because they protect the skin from external damage but also tend to be great sources of vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant and helps prevent cells from oxidative damage.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A aids in repairing skin while beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) strengthens the skin’s protective barrier, helping to plump and moisturize skin cells.

Water

The jury is still out on whether drinking water can cure dehydrated skin, but many professionals say it could be a good place to start and has no side effects except being properly hydrated! It is recommended to drink about half your body weight in ounces, so start there to rule out dehydration as a reason why your skin is lacking moisture.

Poor Digestion

From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day and beyond, you will find all kinds of food at work, at parties, EVERYWHERE. Rich, high-fat and high-sugar foods can cause major stomach issues for those not used to them. To make sure your stomach is armed with the right defense system, we recommend consuming prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds or sources of carbohydrates that feed healthy gut bacteria and help them grow. Just like how the food we eat gives us energy, prebiotics give energy to the bacteria in our gut to grow and thrive too. Prebiotics help probiotics do their job. There are supplement forms of prebiotics but we recommend going with whole food sources first. Common foods that are high in prebiotics are onions, leeks, garlic, legumes, asparagus, artichokes and whole grains.

Probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria that grow in the gut and help support a healthy microbiome. Having a healthy microbiome can have many health benefits including better digestion and bowel movements. A good way to start getting more probiotics in your diet is by looking to fermented food. Yogurt, non-dairy yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh are all sources of probiotics that you can add to your diet. For maximum benefit, we recommend pairing foods that have prebiotics with probiotic-rich foods.

Now that you have a good sense of what nutrient-rich foods to add to your diet this winter, it’s time to plan out meals that include all of them! Before you know it, you will have bright and luscious skin, rockstar vitamin D levels, and a stomach of steel.

Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.