This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
In what's being labelled a "tripledemic" this winter, Canada is currently seeing "elevated levels" of influenza and most provinces are seeing "moderate to high activity" of COVID-19. These viruses are highly contagious, but you can reduce your chances of falling ill with the right habits, such as getting enough essential vitamins.
While eating a varied diet helps you get many of the vitamins and minerals you need to boost your immune system, supplements can help fill the gaps in your diet.
To stay healthy this winter, consider loading up on these six nutrients.
1. Vitamin D
Did you know your body can produce vitamin D on its own? It does so when you take in sunlight during time spent outdoors. But in the cold winter months, it's likely your vitamin D production takes a dip as you spend less time outside.
Vitamin D plays an important part in bone and dental health. Additionally, having enough vitamin D in your body can improve your mood and immune system in the winter. Try eating these foods that are high in vitamin D:
There's no guarantee zinc can always prevent illness, but this mineral can typically help you get over a cold faster. One study discusses evidence that taking zinc may help prevent viral respiratory tract infections.
Zinc may also help you recover faster from some cold viruses. The key is to take zinc within the first 24 hours of feeling symptoms. Several zinc supplements are available, but you can also get zinc from various foods. Foods with high levels of zinc include the following:
3. Vitamin C
You've probably heard that vitamin C is important for supporting your immune system. Its antiviral properties help lower infections and boost immunity. However, this vitamin can also give your mood a pick-me-up, helping to ward off the wintertime blues. Since your body can't naturally produce vitamin C, most people get it from food, including a range of fruits and vegetables. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers and berries.
Keep in mind that vitamin C can't prevent you from getting sick, but it can help you recuperate more quickly.
4. Vitamin E
During winter, your skin may feel dry, itchy and flaky because of the low moisture in the air. A healthy dose of vitamin E can help your skin retain moisture, keeping it soft and smooth. Vitamin E helps your skin in several other ways, such as reducing inflammation and improving the appearance of wrinkles. Many lotions and creams also have vitamin E added in.
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that can help improve your immune system and protect your skin cells from free radicals. It's rare to be vitamin E deficient since most people get enough from the food they eat, which includes nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies.
5. B vitamins
The B vitamin complex includes several vitamins that help keep your overall energy high and aid in immune system function. Thiamine, riboflavin and folate are just a few examples of the vitamins in this group that regulate cell metabolism and energy levels. You'll probably feel weak and sluggish if you're deficient in B vitamins.
You can take a B vitamin supplement or eat foods high in this complex to help you feel energized and keep your immune system tip-top. Since there are several B vitamins, you'll need to eat various foods, including grains, meats, dairy and leafy vegetables to get the complete group.
Gut health plays an essential part in your overall health. To stay healthy, consider adding fermented foods with probiotics to your diet. Probiotics help promote healthy bacteria in your gut, aka your gastrointestinal tract, which then helps boost your immune system. In fact, up to 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your gut.
Besides fermented foods, you can take a probiotic supplement. These supplements aid the immune system and promote good digestion, which can help people who experience stomach problems.