By Christina Tran, RD
– January 2022 –
This holiday season has brought on some frustrating changes and challenges. However, if you have goals to eat well this holiday season and beyond, you can rest assured that nutrition advice has not changed significantly. From pre-pandemic days to now, there have always been some consistent nutrition tips to help us stay well in the winter. As always, try your best to balance your meals by having about two handfuls of non-starchy vegetables, one fistful of grain OR starchy vegetables, and one palm size of a protein. If you are curious about any specific vitamins and minerals that might help, see some tips below:
Vitamin C: Many people believe taking vitamin C supplements can help prevent a cold. Research has not shown that it helps prevent colds. In fact, taking too much vitamin C can make you feel worse. So rather than eating a bunch of oranges when you feel that cold coming on, it’s more helpful to incorporate vitamin C as a regular part of your diet throughout the year. Vitamin C is already found in many vegetables and fruit. For example, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, and kiwi all have vitamin C!
Vitamin D: Many already know that vitamin D works with calcium to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps your muscles, nerves, and immune system work properly. Although there are some good food sources of vitamin D such as milk, fortified dairy alternatives, and fatty fish, most people benefit from using a supplement to achieve optimal levels. Always speak with your dietitian or doctor before starting any supplementation. While we can absorb some vitamin D from the sun, we cannot depend on only sunshine to meet our vitamin D needs, especially living in Canada.
Zinc: Zinc supports your immune system and helps with normal growth and development at all ages. Although zinc comes from a variety of different foods, the best sources are high protein foods like seafood, meat, beans, and lentils. Some dairy products also have zinc. If you are eating a variety of foods based on Canada’s Food Guide, you will likely get the zinc you need.
For some people, getting enough zinc might be a little more work but still doable through diet alone. This includes people who have digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or those who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you are concerned, always check with a health professional.
Remember, simply supplementing these vitamins and minerals cannot prevent or cure a cold and the flu. Also, supplementation is not a reason to have a poor diet. Eating a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, and lentils all contribute to a strong immune system!