Written by Jennifer Ho Sports Dietitian. MS, RD, CD.
FUEL FOR THE COLD
Temperatures start to drop, blankets pile up, and anything to keep warm sounds like a great idea. Colder months of the year are upon us. We often associate winter with flu season because the viruses and pathogens that make us sick thrive in the cold, dry climate. Being sick is rarely desired. We feel less than optimal, miss out on fun events, and feel too drained to do anything.
Immunity-enhancing foods support your diet during winter months. You are what you eat, as they say. Your food choices directly impact your body's ability to fight sickness. Fruits and vegetables are antioxidant-rich and reduce inflammation and stress in the body. Sugar and saturated fats in baked sweets and fried foods do the opposite. Diets high in these foods will increase inflammation and chronic disease risk.
Think about colorful fruits and veggies when looking for antioxidant-rich options. These include citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens, and bell peppers, to name a few. Vitamins and minerals to look for are vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, and zinc.
Hydration is another part of supporting immune health. Staying hydrated throughout the day helps flush out toxins and transport nutrients throughout the blood. When it is cold outside, plain water is not the most enticing. Hydrating through warm food and drinks, like teas and soup, contribute to reaching daily fluid goals.
As mentioned above, berries possess immune-supporting properties. They are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. Blackcurrants are berries native to New Zealand. High levels of naturally occurring anthocyanins and vitamin C are found in these berries. Incorporating blackcurrants into a balanced diet will support overall immunity and well-being.
Studies show that blackcurrants increase circulating neutrophils and the ability of neutrophils to combat infectious bacteria.1 Increased levels of circulating signaling proteins called interleukin-10 were also found. These molecules are associated with improved immune response.2
In addition to a balanced diet, daily movement can provide further support for your immune system. Staying active is needed for exercise benefits and everyday life. Minimize the days spent sick in bed and maximize the days spent with friends and loved ones.
Regular moderate physical activity 3-5 times per week has been shown to improve immunity.3 This is accomplished through the upregulation of anti-inflammatory proteins and the slowing of increases in excess body mass. Neighborhood walks, bike rides, and dancing around the house can all contribute to daily physical activity goals. Choose an activity or class that you genuinely enjoy!
For athletes and highly active individuals, overtraining can lead to a compromised immune system. Remember that too much of anything is not always beneficial. Sickness can be reduced with proper nutrition, recovery, and rest days.
Blackcurrant powder provides energy and enhances immunity. Each sachet of 2before’s blackcurrant powder contains 120 mg of anthocyanins and 70 mg of vitamin C. The caffeine-free powder can be used at any time of the day to help support your immune system. Whether it’s the common cold or a hard training session, the natural benefits of the berries supply nutrients to keep you feeling strong and healthy.
- Hurst RD, Lyall KA, Roberts JM, et al. Consumption of an Anthocyanin-Rich Extract Made From New Zealand Blackcurrants Prior to Exercise May Assist Recovery From Oxidative Stress and Maintains Circulating Neutrophil Function: A Pilot Study. Front Nutr. 2019;6:73. Published 2019 May 29. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00073
- Hurst RD, Lyall KA, Wells RW, et al. Daily Consumption of an Anthocyanin-Rich Extract Made From New Zealand Blackcurrants for 5 Weeks Supports Exercise Recovery Through the Management of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: A Randomized Placebo Controlled Pilot Study. Front Nutr. 2020;7:16. Published 2020 Feb 27. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.00016
- Shao T, Verma HK, Pande B, et al. Physical Activity and Nutritional Influence on Immune Function: An Important Strategy to Improve Immunity and Health Status. Front Physiol. 2021;12:751374. Published 2021 Oct 8. doi:10.3389/fphys.2021.751374