Essentials for a healthy winter | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 07, 2020

A note on nutrition

Essentials for a healthy winter

As the temperature continues to drop, it becomes increasingly challenging to maintain good health. Winter, however, offers nature’s bounty, and a diet enriched with the right ingredients can make all the difference.

Cold and flu bugs thrive in dried-out throats and nasal passages, but drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can help keep our mucous membranes moist, so they are better able to trap microbes.

Steamy soups speed up the movement of mucus and raise the temperature inside nose and throat, creating an inhospitable environment for viruses. The soup’s broth helps to prevent dehydration when we have the flu and the chicken provides protein to help restore and strengthen the immune system through inhibiting white blood cells called neutrophils that are released in huge numbers when we have a cold.

Warm tea can help with decongestion. All tea contains a group of antioxidants known as catechins, which may have flu-fighting properties. Hot water, with a bit of honey (to coat your throat) and lemon (to shrink swollen throat tissues and help kill off virus cells), is also very helpful.

Ginger is a natural pain and fever reducer, and a mild sedative. As it coats our throat, it’s a great sore throat reliever, and its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties help fight infections from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Cinnamon, coriander, and ginger promote sweating, and are often used to help break a fever.

Vitamins — powerhouse nutrients

For areas that go haywire when we catch a cold, Vitamin A is very important. It helps maintain the mucous membranes that line our nose and throat. Orange coloured fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene.

Vitamin C — most commonly found in citrus fruits — is an antioxidant that can also reduce symptoms of colds. About 1 to 8 grams (1,000 to 8,000 milligrams) of the vitamin will do the trick, which we can easily get from citrus fruits, and vegetables like red bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, papaya, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Sunflower seeds are the best natural sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell walls from damage; a single one-ounce serving contains 30 percent of the recommended daily intake, which is especially important for the health of our lungs.

Other nutrients

Oily salt water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids; compounds that help reduce harmful inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation prevents our immune system from working properly, and can contribute to colds and flu.

Garlic contains allicin, a potent antimicrobial agent that can fend off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Garlic packs the biggest antioxidant punch when eaten raw. If we chop garlic first, and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking, this will allow its therapeutic compounds to form.

Probiotic foods, such as yoghurt, is a good way to replenish beneficial strains of bacteria, which promote digestive health. Even in food or supplement form, it lowers the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with a greater risk of upper respiratory infections.

Oats contain a type of fibre called beta-glucan, known for its cholesterol-lowering and immune-boosting properties. It also can help prevent upper respiratory tract infections. 


Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed

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