Winter weather increases the risk of developing illnesses such as the common cold, pneumonia, or influenza, especially for older adults. While these conditions can affect anyone, there are certain things we can do to prevent them from occurring. Exercising, resting, reducing stress, and focusing on a healthy diet are all ways to boost our immune system and help our bodies maintain a healthy balance.
As the winter weather changes, so should our diet. Implementing specific foods into our diet during the wintertime — including fruits that boost the immune system and work to protect us from illnesses. Good nutrition strengthens our immunity, allowing us to fight off viruses and diseases while also helping us recover from illness faster. Certain nutrients are especially helpful in building immunity, especially those found in citrus and other winter fruits.
Citrus fruits, which include oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons, are rich in vitamin C; this helps the body produce white blood cells responsible for attacking viruses and bacteria that enter the body. While researchers don’t believe vitamin C can completely stop a cold from developing, it can reduce the length and severity of the illness. Many older adults are at risk of developing health complications from untreated colds or the flu. Without monitoring, a cold or flu can develop into pneumonia or bronchitis. In addition to having plenty of vitamin C, citrus fruits are some of the best fruits for the immune system because they:
Vitamin C-rich fruits that boost the immune system are especially beneficial to our health in the winter months, but they’re not the only type of nutritious food you should consider. There are many different types of winter fruits that have various health benefits, all of which support different bodily functions. According to Everyday Health, here are some of the most nutritious winter fruits:
Pears are rich in fiber, which not only supports a healthy digestive system but also increases our body’s immune cells. Fiber can also be beneficial for those trying to lose or maintain their weight, as it promotes satiety and reduces the risk of overeating.
Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that support the nervous and digestive systems. In addition, pineapples contain digestive enzymes that help the small intestine absorb protein molecules.
While you may see cranberries at your holiday table, you might not know they’re packed with important nutrients. Cranberries can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease.
This fruit is rich in vitamin A, which can boost immune function and protect against infectious diseases. Vitamin A also supports good vision, heart health and proper kidney function.
Whole oranges contain large amounts of vitamin C and fiber. But you won’t receive these same health benefits from drinking orange juice. As orange juice is processed, it’s stripped of its fiber and usually contains large quantities of sugar.
This fruit is full of vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting, strong bones, and regulating blood calcium levels.
You may think twice before removing the skin of a kiwi before eating. With it, the kiwi fruit contains large quantities of fiber in addition to vitamin C and vitamin K.
If citrus and other winter fruits aren’t a part of your normal diet, there are a few simple ways to consume more. The next time you make a smoothie, you might consider adding a whole orange or frozen pineapple. Adding lemon and lime slices to your drinking water is a delicious way to stay hydrated and consume vitamin C. Consider adding the zest of citrus fruits to your salad dressings and chopped citrus fruits on top of salads and fish. This simple citrus salad by New York Times Cooking is a great place to start:
Winter Citrus Salad with Honey Dressing
2 blood oranges or tangerines
1 pink grapefruit
1 navel orange
½ small red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon honey
Lime or lemon juice to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried
Our Maplewood Senior Living communities know wintertime can be a struggle. However, our staff prioritizes the health and well-being of our residents all year long. Our culinary team sources locally whenever possible, and always uses the freshest ingredients — including fruits that boost the immune system — for each meal. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.
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