The 5 Essential Vitamins for Staying Healthy and Fit This Winter
When temperatures drop, your risk of catching a cold increases. But how can you keep from getting sick? Get plenty of exercise, stay warm and eat a balanced diet. In today’s blog post, we will tell you which five vitamins are essential in winter and how you can avoid developing a vitamin deficiency.
1. Vitamin D
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is not so uncommon. Especially in places with long, dark winters. Your body makes vitamin D (cholecalciferol) when your skin is exposed to sunlight. The lack of sunlight in winter often makes it hard for your body to produce enough vitamin D. Why is this fat-soluble vitamin so important for us? It strengthens our immune system and protects us from infections.
Daily requirement in the absence of sunlight: 20 mcg/day
These foods are good sources of Vitamin D:
- Fish (salmon, tuna & sardines)
- Dairy products
Note: If you already have a deficiency, you won’t be able to correct it by simply eating foods containing vitamin D. In this case, you need to see a doctor. A supplement might also be a good idea. In winter, you should get approx. 5,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day.
2. Vitamin C
While Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can’t protect you from colds, it can shorten the length of time you are sick. If your body is low in vitamin C, it won’t be able to ward off germs as effectively as usual. Therefore, an adequate supply of vitamin C is crucial in winter!
Daily requirement: women 95 mcg/day, men 110 mcg/day
These foods are good sources of vitamin C:
- Bell peppers (contain almost three times as much vitamin C as oranges)
- Citrus fruits
- Brassicas (kale & broccoli)
- Leafy greens
Make sure to eat plenty of the abovementioned foods to avoid developing a vitamin C deficiency.
3. Folic acid
Folic acid is part of the B vitamin family. It is important for the growth and reproduction of cells and is therefore very important during pregnancy. It also plays an important role in DNA and RNA synthesis. This is why a lack of folic acid can weaken your immune system.
Pregnant women should definitely be taking folic acid, and it’s also a good idea for people suffering from intestinal disorders. Plus, alcoholics are at a much higher risk of becoming deficient in folic acid. In addition to getting help with this addiction, a folic acid supplement could also be a good idea.
Daily requirement: 300 mcg/day, pregnant women 550 mcg/day
These foods are good sources of folic acid:
- Leafy greens (spinach & kale)
- Legumes (beans & chickpeas)
- Rolled oats
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A (retinol) is a fat-soluble vitamin. Most people know that it is good for your vision, but it’s also important to get plenty of this vitamin in winter. Vitamin A deficiency has been associated with a reduced immune response and an increased risk of infection.
The human body is capable of producing vitamin A itself from beta-carotene (the precursor of the vitamin).
Daily requirement: women 0.8 mg/day, men 1 mg/day
These foods are good sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene:
- Dairy products
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale & arugula)
Good to know:
Foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins should always be eaten together with fat (e.g. vegetable oils).
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E (tocopherol) is also a member of the fat-soluble vitamin family. The vitamin is a potent antioxidant which strengthens the immune system and plays numerous roles in the body. It is said to help with a wide range of diseases (like cancer and arthritis) and the aging process. Your chances of developing a vitamin deficiency are low if you eat a balanced diet.
Daily requirement: women 12 mg/day, men 14 mg/day
These foods are good sources of vitamin E:
- Vegetable oils (wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil)
- Whole grain products
If you eat a balanced diet and lead a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent vitamin deficiencies in winter. However, if you are tired or sick a lot, it might be worth talking to a doctor. The doctor will draw a blood sample and then be able to tell you if you have a deficiency and what vitamin or mineral supplements you need to take.