Fresh colorful organic vegetables on a rustic wooden table background, farming and healthy food conceptWinter is here — and often, the sniffles come along with the snowfall. Of course, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid getting sick this season. Because around 200,000 Americans are hospitalized in the average year due to flu complications, you may have already taken care of your immunizations. You might be going to bed early, prioritizing your fitness routine, and even taking your multi-vitamins on a daily basis. But in many cases, your diet can make all the difference in your ability to stay well during the winter.
The average child catches between six and 10 colds per year and countless adults choose to go into the office when they’re feeling under the weather. It’s no wonder that illnesses can spread like wildfire. But if you want to boost your immunity this season, you may want to incorporate these foods into your routine for the next few months. Otherwise, you might join the 27% of U.S. patients who visit an urgent care center within the average year or two — and no one wants to deal with having to go to the doctor when they could have avoided getting sick entirely.
Pizza may be the number one comfort food among Americans, but it’s definitely not the dish that will make you feel the best when you’re feeling ill. That honor goes to the much-beloved chicken soup. You might have assumed its medicinal properties are nothing more than psychosomatic, but experts say that it actually can cure what ails you.
Basically, it has all the ingredients needed for a true panacea. Its warmth can ease chest congestion and open up airways, helping you to breathe more comfortably. It’ll also help to keep you hydrated and provide essential nutrients. Although turkey tends to be associated with high tryptophan levels, chicken has that, too. This amino acid actually improves serotonin production, which actually makes you feel more contented — meaning that it really does comfort you. Chicken is also a great source of lean protein, which can boost immunity, build muscle, and help you lose weight overall. Chicken soup, especially when it’s filled with veggies, can provide a good dose of vitamins B, C, and K, all of which can help you fight off bacteria or viruses and allow you to recover from being sick more quickly. Noodles and seasonings can be a welcome addition when you’re sick, too. Some experts believe that chicken soup may even have mild anti-inflammatory effects, which might ease muscle soreness and other discomforts most people experience when they’re sick. So don’t assume it’s only good for the soul; it’s probably one of the best staples you can make or keep in your pantry when someone in your home feels physically ill.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (or ACV, for short) might not be nearly as appealing as a bowl of soup, but it’s long-since been lauded for its healing properties. People swear by the stuff for everything from dandruff to high blood pressure. But it’s also often used to promote gut health and to clear out nasal and chest congestion.
You can easily incorporate ACV into a gargle or a tonic with honey and water. Some people will even take a shot of this fermented stuff each morning to promote higher immunity levels. While you don’t have to go to extremes, it does have high concentrations of vitamin C, potassium, probiotics, and fiber — and many say that nothing breaks up their congestion quite as effectively. If those options don’t sound quite so appealing to you, never fear. There are plenty of delicious recipes (including salad dressings, soups, drinks, side dishes, and main meals) that can help you increase your ACV intake without realizing it.
This category is a dense one, but that means there’ll be so many more ways to promote your health through what you cook in the kitchen this winter. Superfoods are ingredients that are considered to have higher nutritional values — and if they’re seasonal, all the better.
Examples include squash, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, peppers, apples, spinach, garlic, kale, pomegranates, blueberries, and more. The USDA says that just one cup of cooked squash can provide 45% of your daily intake of vitamin A, with many squash varieties providing good sources of vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and other essential nutrients. The more veggies you can highlight (or sneak) in your meals, the better off you’ll be. And of course, don’t ignore your favorite citrus fruits. You might be tempted to stock up on OJ, but you’ll benefit from both the nutrients and the fiber if you eat the fruit instead of juicing it.
Of course, preventing the common cold or the flu comes down to more than what you eat. But it’s certainly true that if you want to be well, you’ll need to eat well to do it. With these tips in mind, you may be able to avoid getting sick in the coming weeks — and enjoy some new (and familiar) recipes, while you’re at it.