Tired of feeling under the weather in winter? You may be thinking of taking vitamins and supplements to boost your immune system during the colder months, but which ones should you choose? And are there other ways to strengthen your defenses in winter?
In this article, you’ll find out some of the best immune support supplements and what lifestyle habits can keep you healthy all year round.
Believe it or not, cold temperatures in winter don’t make you sick… but they can indirectly affect your immune function and make you more vulnerable to infections and viruses.
Proper nutrition and regular exercise are vital for supporting your immunity, but as the holiday season rolls around, we often push healthy habits aside. Plus, heavy meals and evenings of cozying up on the sofa can make you feel sluggish and reduce your immune function.
All these factors can make you more sickly during colder months. It’s only natural to want to boost your immunity with vitamins and supplements in winter.
But is there anything else you can do to stay healthy when the weather gets cold?
While there is no surefire way to avoid getting sick, having a robust immune system can keep winter colds at bay. These healthy habits and tips help naturally support your immunity and overall health year-round:
Your immune system works hard to keep you healthy throughout the year and fight harmful viruses and bacteria. While a healthy lifestyle — a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule — can support a strong immune function, sometimes it might need a little more help. Let’s take a look at some vitamins and supplements that can boost your immunity and keep you healthy during winter.
Found naturally in citrus fruit and vegetables like onions, vitamin C is an effective antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. It strengthens your immune system, helps fight off infections, and helps you recover faster when you get a cold. It can also keep your skin healthy and radiant and heal wounds faster.
Since your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, you need to get it from your diet or take supplements. Aim to consume the recommended daily amount, which is:
The sunshine vitamin is key for strengthening your immune system and helping it efficiently fight bacteria and viruses. You can get a small amount of vitamin D from your diet — oily fish and liver are good sources of it — but it’s usually not enough to support your immune defenses, especially in winter, when we don’t get as much sunlight. You can really benefit from taking vitamin D supplements, but discuss the dosage with your doctor first.
According to the World Health Organization, between 17 and 30 percent of the world’s population has a zinc deficiency. Zinc is one of the key minerals for a healthy immune system.
It is effective at fighting viruses and can shorten the duration of a cold.
Taking zinc supplements can keep you healthy in winter, but make sure to stay within the recommended daily amount for adults — 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men — as too much zinc can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
More common amongst women than men, an iron deficiency can cause anemia and lower your immune function. Iron supplements can help build up your resistance to infections, and pair well with another immunity booster, vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the iron better. Consult your healthcare provider beforehand, as excess iron can have unpleasant side effects like stomach pain and nausea.
A balanced, healthy diet can support your immune system year-round. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like oily fish contain various vitamins and minerals that help keep you strong and healthy throughout the cold months.
If you can, try to get your daily boost of vitamins from your food rather than from supplements.
Depending on where you live, you may not always be able to get your hands on high-quality fresh produce in winter. But frozen vegetables can be almost as good for your immune system! Manufacturers usually freeze them when they are at their peak ripeness, so they’ll have a similar nutritional value to their fresh counterparts.
Let’s go through some of the foods that can give your immunity a much-needed boost in winter.
We often turn to ginger when we get sick, and for a good reason — it can reduce inflammation, soothe a sore throat, and ease an upset stomach. Ginger packs some heat as well, so it’s a good ingredient to add to your tea on a cold, gloomy day to keep you warm and give you a boost of energy. Research has also found that ginger can lower chronic pain and cholesterol.
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which we already know is essential for a robust immune system, increasing the production of white blood cells that help to fight infections. A glass of orange juice in the morning can give you a daily squeeze of vitamin C, but there is a great variety of citrus fruits, so you can mix it up with other popular options like:
Garlic has been known for its medicinal properties for centuries. It's rich in minerals and vitamins that help fight infections and viruses:
In addition to reducing your chances of getting a cold in winter, garlic has also been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. So add some garlic to your dishes — raw or cooked — and enjoy its health benefits.
High in vitamin C, iron, and magnesium, spinach helps support your immune function and maintain healthy blood pressure. Eating raw spinach — adding it to a smoothie, for example — can ensure you reap the maximum health benefits, but it still retains most of its nutrients when blanched or cooked lightly.
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This healthy snack is high in protein and healthy fats, and contains vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. Almonds can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as support a healthy immune function. They’re pretty versatile, too, so you can add them to your diet in a variety of forms. Eat them whole as a snack, add them to your salads or breakfast cereal for a healthy crunch, or use some almond butter in your smoothie.
A strong immune system can keep you healthy in any season. The best way to support it year-round is to eat a balanced diet, have regular exercise, and get enough sleep. But in winter, when we tend to move less and spend more time indoors, your immune system may need a little bit of extra help. Of course, you can get some vitamins and minerals to support your immune function from your diet. But in some cases taking supplements can be more effective. Your doctor can help determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies and recommend specific immune booster vitamins and supplements to keep you healthy throughout winter.