How Does Winter Affect Your Diet?

During the winter there is less exposure to sunlight, so it is appropriate to include a vitamin D supplement in the diet in order to avoid deficiencies.
How Does Winter Affect Your Diet?
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 10 April, 2021

Our diet is not the same throughout the year. In fact, the ideal thing is to adapt our nutrient intake to the seasons, emphasizing certain elements in the colder months in order to improve the functioning of the immune system.

It should be noted that if we commit mistakes in our diet, then this can alter our body’s efficiency in many ways. Sometimes supplementation may even be necessary in order to avoid deficits of essential nutrients.

During winter, the presence of vitamins in the diet must be increased

Winter affects food due to the risk of infections.
Respiratory infections are common at this time.

The winter months are characterized by often extremely cold weather. At this time, it’s more likely that we will contract infectious diseases, as changes in temperatures negatively affect the body’s defenses. However, this risk can be tempered by increasing the intake of certain vitamins.

For example, vitamin C has been shown to be essential in preventing the development of diseases related to the respiratory tract. This is stated by a study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology. Maintaining a correct supply of the nutrient reduces the incidence of colds and flu, in addition to facilitating their management.

In addition, other micronutrients such as zinc play a special role in promoting the body’s defenses. According to research published in Nutrients, the mineral has the power to modulate the differentiation of our body’s white cells, these being in charge of fighting most of the pathogens.

Even the intake of antioxidants is important. These elements neutralize the production of free radicals, whose impact reduces the levels of inflammation in the human body.

Thanks to this, the risk of the immune system making mistakes during its functioning is reduced, thus preventing possible inefficiencies. This will make it less likely to get sick throughout the winter.

The meals consumed in winter aren’t the same as in other times

In addition to needing a greater supply of certain micronutrients during the winter, it should be noted that the appetites for culinary preparations also vary. Since the ambient temperature decreases, hot meals or soups are more palatable, as they’re comforting.

In this sense, they can be used to increase the presence of legumes in the diet. These foods contain a significant concentration of protein, in addition to other important substances such as fiber.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition , this is essential in order to prevent colon cancer and intestinal problems such as constipation.

These dishes usually contain generous servings of vegetables, especially from the cruciferous group. These foods are beneficial for the body, as they contain antioxidants and phytonutrients capable of reducing the risk of developing complex diseases.

According to a review published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, a high consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower mortality from all causes.

In addition, according to this study, it is inversely related to the incidence of diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases. In this sense, it’s necessary to ensure its presence in the diet, emphasizing it during the winter months.

Supplementation may vary during winter

The basis of a good diet is the distribution of food. However, adequate supplementation can help achieve better results, both in terms of weight loss and in terms of health and well-being. Many think that these products are only for athletes, but the truth is that anyone can take advantage of them.

For example, during winter, stress and anxiety levels tend to be higher. This is due to the workload and less exposure to sunlight. In this sense, there are two supplements that can be introduced into routines in order to alleviate this problem.

The first of these is vitamin D, a nutrient that is endogenously synthesized from exposure to the sun’s rays. As this resource is more limited during the winter months, it’s effective to consume it through diet and supplements.

It must be remembered that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D has been shown to play an essential role in the prevention of many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular ones. It also modulates inflammation and stress.

At the same time, melatonin can be another excellent supplement to include during the winter months. This hormone is able to regulate sleep and wake cycles, thus improving the quality of rest.

When you get a good night’s sleep, your anxiety is significantly reduced. In fact, there is evidence that melatonin may be effective in preventing episodes of mood disturbance.

Winter eating and intestinal disorders

It should be noted that the changes in temperature and cold that occur during the winter months can determine the proper functioning of the digestive system. From here on, episodes of diarrhea and constipation become more likely, with all the effects they have on the digestive tract.

Therefore, it’s crucial to take care of intestinal health. In this sense, the introduction of fermented products in the diet can be of great help, since these have bacteria that selectively colonize the intestine, increasing the diversity of the microbiota.

From here, the risk of suffering alterations in motility or nutrient absorption is reduced.

Not only through fermented foods can we improve this condition, but there’s also the possibility of prescribing probiotic supplementation. In this case, it’s essential to choose the correct product to consume.

It’s important that you have a minimum number of bacteria in order for them to colonize the digestive tract well. It’s also essential that they’re encapsulated or that the probiotic is consumed along with a stomach protector.

Apart from this, another key factor when it comes to improving the functioning of the digestive system during the winter months is the consumption of fiber. This substance serves as an energy substrate for intestinal bacteria, thus enabling their reproduction.

If we don’t ingest it in the appropriate doses, alterations in the biodiversity of the microbiota could occur that will negatively condition its functions.

When eating during winter, a good distribution of macronutrients must be maintained

We’ve talked about micronutrients and the specific elements that can determine the quality of food during the winter months. However, the intake of macronutrients shouldn’t be neglected, as these are the main source of energy. In addition, these elements have many different functions within the human body.

The drop in the ambient temperature causes the body to compensate by burning a greater amount of energy to maintain heat in the internal environment.

From the point of view of caloric balance, this doesn’t mean that the energy intake should be increased much through food, although it does need to be altered slightly in order to offset the losses experienced.

Experts also recommend, under normal conditions, that we ensure that our protein intake is adequate. These nutrients are key in the repair of tissues, thus guaranteeing their functions. It becomes even more decisive when there’s intense physical exercise involved.

Lipids are of significant importance in maintaining homeostasis in our body’s internal environment. Not only are they responsible for balancing inflammatory processes, but they also intervene in hormonal physiology, in addition to being able to function as an energy substrate on many occasions.

Finally, we must talk about carbohydrates. These elements are very important for high-energy athletes. However, in the case of sedentary people it may be advisable to limit their intake a bit.

It’s important to always prioritize those of the complex type, in order to avoid peaks in blood glucose levels that can create problems in the medium term.

Always be careful with alcohol

Winter affects diet due to alcohol consumption.
In winter, excess alcohol should be avoided.

During the winter months, it’s common for social meetings to take place in closed spaces, to avoid the cold. However, this encourages the presence of alcoholic beverages, something that is considered harmful to health.

This substance is toxic regardless of the amount consumed, and so the most sensible thing to do is avoid it as much as possible.

You have to be careful with both alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, although this recommendation is applicable to any time of the year. The liquid that ensures hydration in the internal environment must be water.

Likewise, the snacks that accompany drinks in bars should also be restricted, as they can cause imbalances in energy intake. It’s fine to ingest them every so often, but this shouldn’t become a habit.

In addition, they’re often made with unnatural ingredients or through aggressive thermal processes, thus conditioning their nutritional quality.

You have to adapt your diet during the winter

As you have seen, it’s beneficial to make certain dietary adaptations during the winter months. In this way, it’s possible to guarantee the optimal functioning of the human body, which will, in turn, have a positive impact on health in the medium and long term.

Also remember that physical activity is recommended at any time of the year. It’s essential in order to achieve an optimal state of body composition, and to achieve homeostasis in the body’s internal environment. In fact, it’s considered one of the most powerful health tools we have.

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