How To Stay Healthy During The Winter Months

We’ve all heard of the "wintertime blues." The more formal name is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In the colder months, you might have low energy or find yourself craving sugary foods. But why? When we experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, it is partly due to limited exposure to sunlight. Being out in the sun is a natural way to absorb Vitamin D, which is critical for overall health. Additionally, serotonin, one of the "feel good" chemicals in the brain, tends to drop in the wintertime, which can negatively impact our mood.

If you’re beginning to feel sluggish, you certainly aren’t alone. However, there are some easy steps you can take to stay healthy this season.

1. Take vitamins to help combat fatigue.

Many vitamins can be naturally found in our food sources. They can also come in the form of powders and capsules. However you choose to take in your essential vitamins and nutrients, make sure you focus on these to help fight off sickness and boost immunity:

  • Vitamin D deficiency is more common throughout the wintertime for many adults, especially for those who live in northern states that get less sun exposure. Research shows that at least 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are Vitamin D deficient. Consider taking a daily supplement during the wintertime. You can also try consuming more foods that are naturally rich in Vitamin D such as salmon, halibut, canned tuna, eggs (the yolks specifically) and mushrooms.

    If fish and eggs aren’t your thing, try foods that are fortified with Vitamin D; these can include orange juice, cereal, soy milk and oatmeal. Just be sure to check the nutrition labels first!
  • Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant in the body. It is also vital for immune function, wound healing, and bone and tissue health. When you hear about this vitamin, you might immediately think of orange juice. However, high levels of Vitamin C are present in a variety of fruits and vegetables, including kale, broccoli, lemons, strawberries, parsley, brussels sprouts, green chili peppers and kakadu plums. 
  • Zinc is a key nutrient that helps your immune system and metabolism function properly. Zinc is available at most pharmacies in capsule form. However, it can also be found in a variety of foods, including pepitas (pumpkin seeds), dark chocolate, whole eggs, garbanzo beans, oysters, meat, seafood, dairy products and nuts.
  • Probiotics help the body to maintain a healthy gut, which is where the bulk of the immune system lies. Taking a probiotic can help boost the supply of microbes that live in your body, which are key to fighting off infections like the common cold.

    An easy way increase your probiotic consumption naturally is by eating yogurt.  It's one of the best (and most inexpensive) sources of probiotics. On average, one serving of yogurt will typically cost less than $1. If you're not a fan of yogurt -- or if you'd prefer other options -- fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles are good sources of probiotics. 
Lastly, don’t forget about the cozy, hot beverage that can pack a healthy punch – tea. Consider making a cup of warm tea and adding in fresh ginger and lemon for an extra energy boost in the morning or afternoon. Bonus - it may also help soothe a scratchy throat.

2. Spend time in the sun.
Getting natural sunlight in the morning is extremely beneficial in helping adults to regulate their circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is a 24-hour cycle that helps the body sleep and stay awake during the appropriate times. 

When you are exposed to bright light (sunlight is best) in the morning, it can help you feel more alert during the day and has a later effect that helps you to feel sleepy in the evening. Conversely, our eyes don't like bright light (especially the blue light that is emitted from phones or other electronic devices) within two hours of bedtime because it can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Learn more about simple ways to get a better night's sleep.

3. Stay physically active.
Finding the motivation to drive to the gym when it's dark and dreary outside can be difficult. The great news is that you can find ways to move your body without leaving the house! There are hundreds of no-cost workouts available online. Simply follow along right from your phone, tablet or TV. If you're feeling up for a friendly competition, challenge a friend to complete a free virtual workout with you every day for one week. 

Not sure where to find a free online workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home? We've put together a list of our favorite fitness videos that are available on YouTube:

By intentionally working to consume key vitamins and nutrients, spending time in the sun (even when it's chilly) and staying active, you'll proactively set yourself up for a healthier season. 

As always, make sure to wash your hands frequently to help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, and contact your medical provider if you feel unwell. 

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