During the cold season our body must adjust to low temperatures and lack of sunshine. One way to help is through winter foods.
Don’t know what to eat during the cold season? Here are some tips for a balanced winter diet.
The diets that we found gratifying during the summer, are no longer suitable in winter, as they become too light for the needs of our body. Fortunately, nature provides us with seasonal foods that have the properties we need to prevent and combat respiratory diseases, so common at this time of the year.
We have foods with high caloric content, such as legumes, potatoes or sweet potato, which allow us to accumulate energy to maintain body heat. It is also easy to find fruits and vegetables with nutrients that contribute to increase our defenses in winter.
Consuming seasonal food is also convenient because its quality is higher, as they are fresher, not to mention that they are usually cheaper and easier to get.
Cold season vegetables have very useful properties against coughs and colds. For example, onion and garlic are foods with antiseptic (eliminates microorganisms) and mucolytic (promotes the expulsion of mucus) properties that prevent or help in the recovery of respiratory diseases.
The sulfur-rich compounds found in these foods pass into the blood, after digestion, and almost immediately make their way to the lungs. These substances are more abundant when the products that contain them are consumed raw or with little cooking time, and although they are responsible for the characteristic odor that the breath acquires, they also strengthen the mucous membranes (soft and moist tissue) and help fight sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Our body also requires vitamin A to keep the skin and mucous membranes (including those lining the inside of the bronchial tubes) in good condition and reduce the risk of respiratory diseases. The carrot is the ideal food to obtain beta-carotene (antioxidant that in the intestine is transformed into vitamin A), as it can be easily found during this time and its taste is accepted by everyone.
Another good seasonal option is chard, spinach and endive, as they provide beta-carotene, fibre (which helps to regulate intestinal transit) and folates, i.e. folic acid derivatives which, among other things, help in the formation of proteins and aid in the regeneration of tissues.
The cabbage family is not far behind, as it provides numerous antioxidants (blocking molecules responsible for aging, called free radicals) that contribute to the proper functioning of the defenses, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, sulfur compounds and anthocyanins (especially in the purple variety).
But if we are talking about vitamin C, it is time to talk about fruits such as citrus fruits (orange, tangerine, lemon, lime and grapefruit), guava, tejocote and kiwi, which are the first source of this nutrient so necessary for tissue regeneration, eliminate free radicals and stimulate the body’s defenses.
In addition, these products abound in soluble fibre (pectin and mucilage) which, at least in the case of citrus fruits, are concentrated in the white part that covers the pulp, so it should not be discarded. Also, the typical color of orange, tangerine and grapefruit is due to their high concentration of beta-carotene.
By the way, the best way to take advantage of the nutritional qualities of winter fruits is by consuming them raw and without overdoing it when removing the peel, since the greatest amount of vitamins is located just under the skin.
Nutritionists rightly point out that during the winter there is a greater risk of consuming more calories than necessary. Salads are not very tempting in cold weather and you crave warmer foods, which tend to be more fattening. However, the answer to how not to gain weight in winter lies in knowing what foods to eat and watching your portions.
The best trick to avoid overdoing it on diets is to make use of soups in winter. Consuming this dish as a starter offers the possibility of eating well without getting fat, since it can include among its ingredients a wide variety of cold season vegetables, useful to prevent diseases or contribute to their relief.
It is convenient to prepare soups without cream and opt for recipes that only use vegetables. The ones made at home are less fattening because they are lower in calories; to season them it is better to use spices and grain salt (the flavoring in cubes increases the sodium and fat content).
Pasta is also a good choice of food for the winter season, but there are some precautions to be taken. You should watch the amount you eat so as not to overdo it (one serving is equivalent to half a cup of cooked pasta) and avoid those accompanied with spicy sauces, cream and meat. Also, moderate the amount of cheese you usually accompany them with.
As for soups and broths that incorporate rice, lentils and beans, it is not advisable to eat them more than three times a week, because they provide a lot of energy. It is recommended to combine these foods with vegetables and not with meat or sausages, and to use sauces and homemade tomato juice in their preparation, since industrialized products (canned) have more calories.
There are other aspects that can help you achieve a balanced diet in winter, some tips that you can take into account during this season are:
- Our body works more slowly in winter, which is why it requires less heavy food. In addition, it is desirable that dinner is consumed before 8 pm.
- If you have to take antibiotics because of a respiratory infection, try to reinforce the bacterial flora (beneficial microorganisms that live in the intestine) with yogurt and fresh fruit.
- Maintain your regular water intake (2 litres per day). You can drink herbal teas or teas to achieve this.
- It is convenient to consume honey to replace sugar, as it provides energy and substances that improve the health of the respiratory tract.
- To improve your intake of vitamin A, which helps protect your skin from the cold and prevents chapped lips, include milk, cottage cheese, liver and eggs in your diet.
- The lack of sunlight decreases the incorporation of vitamin D into the body, so it is advisable to add oily fish (sardines, tuna or salmon) to compensate for a possible deficit.
- As for beef, pork, lamb or other meats, they can be consumed, preferably prepared on the grill and choosing lean cuts (without fat).
- Potatoes are ideal foods for winter, it is advisable to eat them cooked or baked, instead of fried or mashed, to avoid adding calories.
- Don’t abuse chocolate, nougat, marzipan or other seasonal desserts, as their calorie content is high. A good option to replace them is the incorporation of nuts (peanut, almond, walnut or hazelnut) and dried fruits (date, fig, apple or pear), as they provide fiber and nutrients.
- It is also valid to conclude the meal with natural citrus juice, trying not to spend more than 15 minutes after obtaining it, as it loses much of its vitamin properties.
We hope you find these tips helpful in preventing common illnesses this time of year. Remember that in addition to keeping warm and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you need to eat a balanced diet in winter.