The days are shorter and the weather is getting more chilly out there. Although not according to a calendar, many people say that winter has arrived. Often, the right warm clothing doesn’t even prove to be enough to overcome the challenges generated by seasonal change. Cold, humid weather and little sunshine are the hotbed for disease spreading by droplets, even in these circumstances there are things we can do for our health.
It can be observed in the autumn-winter months that people more often opt for ready or convenience meals. This can be caused by fatigue or relieving distress due to shorter and darker days. If this happens occasionally there is no problem with it, as these foods also have an evolutionary function in our lives. However, in the long run, it is important to eat enough vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. Diversity is also key in order to get as many types of vitamins and minerals as possible. The latter can be easily accomplished by always adding different colors of fruits and vegetables to the basket each week. (You can read more about this here.) In addition, it’s important to consume “good” fats (fish, seeds and nuts) and get adequate amounts of fibre by having a great variety of whole grains and legumes in our diet.
Do we need to supplement with extra doses of vitamins?
There is no specific health recommendation about having higher vitamin requirements in the winter months, with the exception of vitamin D. (You can read about this here). We know that vitamins C, A, and D play an important role in protecting our immune system, and that 70% of our immune cells are found in the gut, so I would highlight once again the importance of eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and fibre.
Vitamin C supplementation in high doses has been the subject of much debate over the years. Many say that high levels of vitamin C would fight the infection, given its role in immune function. But clinical research does not show these results consistently - hence there has been no health recommendation made. In addition to this, statistics show that at population level, our average daily vitamin C intake is well above the recommendations (1). Here are some vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C that you can incorporate into your diet in order to increase your intake; broccoli, oranges, strawberries, brussels sprouts or even potatoes.
It’s worth mentioning zinc, as clinical research shows promising results. It has been found that in certain cases, supplementing with high doses of zinc within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms can shorten the course of the disease by up to two days(2). It is important to note that high dose was used in the research, which would have unpleasant side effects in everyday use.
It has long been believed that the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of garlic helps to improve cold symptoms. So far, this is not supported by much clinical research, but the same applies for garlic consumption as for extra vitamin C consumption that it doesn’t harm us, which is not the case with excessive zinc consumption.
It is important to look at health holistically and pay attention to the different pillars of our health too; quality sleep and regular exercise. Not surprising, if I say that the presence of both in our lives reduces the risk of common colds and other diseases.
To sum up, in the winter months, there is no need for special dietary supplements to maintain our health, except for vitamin D, which is definitely worth considering. The best thing you can do to stay healthy is to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and not neglect quality sleep and outdoor activities. Our fresh by terra dishes can help you create a healthy and varied menu so you have more time for other aspects of your health.
1. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Years 1 to 9 of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2016/2017): Time trend and income analyses