Winter Wonder Foods

By: Shlomit Kahan  |  November 18, 2013

As soon as you hear your heater rumbling, you know that winter has arrived. Some people get excited for the cold of winter and hope for snow to fall.  Others miss the summer’s warmth and want to hide under the covers while sipping hot chocolate. No matter which type of person you are, I’m sure you can agree on one thing: You would do almost anything to avoid catching a nasty cold or the flu this winter.  Knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid can help you boost your immune system and avoid catching any diseases this winter. These foods can be eaten at any meal of the day, making it very easy to embark on a diet that is proactive against getting sick.

In the morning, most of us eat breakfast on the go as we rush to get to class. One good option for an on-the-go breakfast is yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics, which can help maintain the immune system. The only catch is that not all yogurts contain “real” probiotics. Elizabeth Somer, RD, says, “Some companies make up probiotic names to put on their label.”  Therefore, you should make sure to check out your yogurt’s ingredients to make sure that it contains real probiotics. Look for ingredients like acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. rhamnosus. These ingredients are even better when combined.

You know it’s time for a snack when your stomach grumbles in the middle of class. It might as well be a healthy snack that can help boost your immune system.  Scientists at Tufts University found that Vitamin E aids in the production of B cells, which are cells that make antibodies and remove unwanted bacteria. This vitamin can be found in almonds, mango, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. The Stern cafeteria usually stocks most of these foods, so instead of snacking on a cookie or muffin try some nuts or cubed mango.

Whether you go to the cafeteria for lunch or dinner, the salad bar is always packing Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important vitamin to have because it can protect against immune system deficiencies. Remember this as you wait your turn at the salad bar: choose the broccoli, red peppers, and dark leafy greens, which all contain Vitamin C. You can also get your Vitamin D fix in the cafeteria. Vitamin D improves the immune system when in its active form. It is especially important that foods be your source of vitamin D in the winter because Vitamin D levels are lower in the winter due to less exposure of the sun, which helps our body manufacture its own Vitamin D. Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium, which is another important nutrient to be had in the winter months. Products containing Vitamin D are salmon, eggs, tuna, certain cereals, and dairy products.

During the winter months, it is also very important to remain hydrated throughout the day. Dr. Annette Gadagbeku, a professor at Drexel College of Medicine, says that it is important to keep hydrated during the winter months because the dryness of the cold air and the heat in our homes can cause dehydration. Dehydration can be a factor in weakening the immune system. So although it’s tempting to snuggle up in bed while it’s snowing with hot cocoa, beware of consuming too many sugary drinks; sugar is found to feed bacterial and viral organisms which can cause a person to become sick. So instead of making that cup of hot chocolate, make a cup of tea instead and be conscious of how much sugar you add to it.

Good decisions can prevent red noses and piles of dirty tissues. Taking these precautions in your diet during the winter can be very helpful in boosting your immune system and making it through the winter without getting sick. So, this winter, make it a point to think before you eat.