By Micah Henderson, Dietetic Intern, Westminster Village
As the winter season progresses, our day-to-day tasks and responsibilities can become monotonous and tiresome. We notice our energy levels decreasing and our zeal for life taking a slight decline as we trudge through the snow and turn our faces toward the gray skies. Once the thrill and joy of the holiday season ends, the busyness of daily activities combined with a lack of sunlight can take a toll on our immune system. We tend to become lazier in caring for our bodies, especially when it comes to what we are using as fuel. The macronutrients and micronutrients that humans consume are incredibly important for maintaining endurance during the colder months and can even help to keep the “winter blues” at bay.
The human body requires a vast array of food and nutrients to nurture a healthy lifestyle. The best way to provide the body with both the macronutrients and the micronutrients it needs is to consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, legumes, and healthy fats. When we include this exceptional variety of foods in our diets, we promote the nutrients that our body might be missing, especially during the frosty months of the year. Let’s take a closer look at the vitamins that we can work to promote through our food choices when the weather outside is frightful:
This fat-soluble vitamin provides strengthening for our bones, reduces cancer cell growth, controls infections, and decreases inflammation. Our main source of vitamin D comes from sunlight, making it difficult to obtain in adequate amounts in the winter. While the sun might peek out from time to time throughout the frigid days, not enough will reach our skin and be processed in our bodies. This means we must consume foods with higher levels. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, egg yolk, mushrooms, fortified orange juice, fortified dairy and plant milks, and fortified cereals.
This acid is water-soluble and is stored in the body tissues. Vitamin C is known for managing infections and healing wounds, as well as reducing the number of free radicals using antioxidant properties. Free radicals damage cells and genetic material in the body. Foods with an ample amount of this vitamin include citrus fruit, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes.
Iron works in the body as a mineral that promotes healthy blood flow through oxygen transportation and storage in tissues. A lack of iron is the most common deficiency in the nutrition world. This mineral takes on two forms known as heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal flesh and the best sources include beef, poultry, canned tuna, canned sardines, oysters, clams, and mussels. Non-heme iron can be found in plant foods, animal flesh, and fortified foods like beans, dark chocolate, lentils, spinach, potatoes with skin, nuts, seeds, fortified cereals, and enriched rice or bread.
There are eight types of B vitamins that can aid our health through collaborating with enzymes to boost metabolic processes and produce energy. The food sources include beans, bananas, spinach, nuts, eggs, pork, fish, chicken, dairy products, sweet potatoes, and enriched grain products.
Just like we celebrate the holiday season with eagerness and enthusiasm, celebrate your body this winter by putting your health first. Make small changes in your eating patterns to boost your energy and motivation. Invite loved ones as you focus on healthy eating patterns by choosing a recipe to make and enjoy together. Find new recipes online or in cookbooks that will warm you as you watch the snow fall outside. Grab a friend who will take a walk or jog with you when the winter wonderland unfolds. As the winter season progresses, your small steps will take you far and boost your endurance in all areas of your life.
Westminster Village is a continuing care retirement community, located at 2025 East Lincoln Street in Bloomington. Celebrating life—their mission is to provide excellence in senior living through a continuum of care and services. For more information, contact them at 309-663-6474 or visit www.westminstervillageinc.com.