Winter Health: A Vital Time for Vitamins

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ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The stress of venturing out into cold weather can deplete the personal reserve of nutrients you need for winter health.

While January and February’s wind, rain, and snow can
curtail many of our activities … germs and viruses go
right on about their business of making us sick regardless
of the weather! In fact, it sometimes seems as if the
invisible nuisances absolutely thrive during the wet,
chilly months . . . “brewing up” an endless assortment of
colds, coughs, sniffles, sore throats, and all of the other
related miseries that accompany such illnesses.

Consider,
though, that humankind’s wintertime vulnerability to colds
and flu may not lie so much with these malevolent microbes
and virulent viruses (they’re around much of the time
anyway) as it does in the change of lifestyle that winter
often brings.

We tend, for example, to spend more time
indoors (all too often in hot, stuffy rooms) during the
winter months, and–when we leave our closed-up and
heated homes for the frigid outdoors–we give our
systems a resounding shock. Then, once outside, we still
have to contend with unexpected, drastic changes in the
weather itself! Such winter stresses tend to use up the
body’s supply of vitamin C at a rapid rate. Yet fresh
fruits and vegetables, our best source of C, are often so
expensive and in such short supply during the cold part of
the year that–more than likely–most folks
actually reduce their intake of such important
foods when they need them more than ever!

For optimum winter health, we need to give special consideration to our intake of the oil
vitamins, A and D, too. Vitamin D (the “sunshine” vitamin)
is present in only limited quantities in most ordinary
foods … with the exception of such “primary sources” as
egg yolks, fortified milk products, and unrefined oils. If
you spend considerable time indoors and avoid consuming
milk and eggs (items that are often kept out of people’s
diets for any one of a number of reasons), your body may be
short on D. (And, as you probably know, a vitamin A
deficiency can lower your resistance to respiratory and
other infections.)

The Snackin’ Season

During the winter months many people also seem to turn to
sweeter and/or starchier diets. And–since more time
is devoted to games, reading, and other indoor leisure
pursuits during the cold part of the year–folks have
a tendency to snack more.

Such impromptu eating habits can
create, among other things, a deficiency in the minerals
needed for the essential action of certain enzymes that
break down and metabolize the nutritious foods we do eat.
Furthermore, the older men and women get, the more they may
have to rely on enzymes in their diets … rather
than the supply their bodies produce. However, enzymes are
generally destroyed when they encounter any heat higher
than body temperature, so–since we eat more cooked
foods in winter–it’s no wonder a “cold season” seems
to occur during the chilly months.

Fortunately, all such
essential nutrients –plus the equally vital protein,
iron, and B-complex vitamins–can be easily obtained
in a carefully planned winter diet … or through the use
of well-balanced vitamin and mineral supplements, which (if
taken on a regular basis) can do a great deal to stave off
or at least minimize the miseries that winter or a change
in seasons often brings.