As an all-star warrior that shortens the duration of colds and improves symptoms, vitamin C is an essential nutrient for cold-weather months, explains registered dietitian Michele Gilson of Kaiser Permanente. Yes, oranges are a good source, says Gilson, but so are root vegetables, which makes them a smart addition to soups and stews. Focus on beets, turnips, parsnips, and carrots, among many others.
Gilson says green tea is an ideal hot beverage choice for the winter season. It delivers minerals and vitamins that help build your immune system. "It has more health benefits than other caffeinated teas because of the way it's processed: The leaves are dried and lightly steamed, not fermented like other black teas," she explains. "The tea has catechins—a type of antioxidant—that can help ward off viruses."
Here are some more surprising benefits of green tea.
Push those Cheerios aside and make room for oatmeal, a healthier meal choice in winter, according to Gilson. "There is a load of zinc and soluble fiber in there. Zinc helps the immune system and the fiber helps keep you feeling warm and fuller for longer," she explains. Maybe skip the butter and brown sugar, and instead top your bowl with dried fruit or fresh fruit—it'll be even better for you.
Time to start experimenting with potentially unfamiliar greens: Many of these vegetables heal and help your body in immeasurable ways. Maybe give Brussels sprouts another chance. They're delicious when topped with turkey sausage or paired with spices, and these all-powerful veggies will help you ward off illness, according to Brittany Stucklen, a nutritionist at Medifast Weight Control Centers of California. Not only do Brussels sprouts feature antioxidants that scare away the sniffles, but they also promote strong bones.
Take advantage of butternut squash as the snow pours down and the thermometer continues to drop. Stucklen says this vegetable will deliver the nutrients your body is craving this time of year: vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. "Adding butternut squash to your winter diet decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," she explains.
Looking for a fresh alternative to soup? Stucklen has an option: kale salad. It will give you the health benefits of dark leafy greens you usually get from a salad. "Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, K, and E, and is filled with iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium. Use it in any dish or make it for your lunch break," Stucklen recommends. Try some of these kale recipes we just can't get enough of.
This winter fruit has a short shelf life and can be tough to peel, Stucklen says, but it's worth the extra effort. Not only do the fruits potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories keep you from contracting a cold, but they can protect your heart as well by helping lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Pop the seeds for lunch or on top of your oatmeal or salad.
Your body craves warmth this time of year, which is why naturopath and author Lynn Anderson, PhD, ND, suggests selecting heat-producing foods like potatoes and yams. They help your circulation system stay productive and serve as adequate fuel for long days of shoveling snow or chasing snow-angel-making kiddos.
This squash deserves a role in your life beyond Halloween and Thanksgiving pies. Nutritionist Maya Feller, RD, explains that pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene and is a wonderful source of fiber which can help prevent mindless snacking during the long nights near your kitchen.
Learn more about pumpkin's impressive health benefits here.
A requirement for guacamole, a best friend to toast, and a beloved go-to for nearly every health nut, avocados are a smart choice year round, Feller explains. They deliver healthy monounsaturated fats and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals all of which can protect your heart and help boost your immunity. And if you close your eyes as you eat your avocado, you can imagine you're on a warm beach in Mexico.