Boost your immune system: Most everyone knows that vitamin C is key to a healthy immune system. But did you know that drinking green tea can also boost your ability to fight off viruses?
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins, which are known to have flu-fighting properties, according to Health.com. The tea also contains theophylline, which opens your airways to help you breathe easier if mucus has taken hold.
In a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, participants who took two green tea capsules a day experienced fewer symptoms and instances of the cold and flu compared with a placebo group.
The bonus? Green tea has also been shown to raise your metabolism, reduce your risk of heart disease and reactivate dying skin cells to help your face retrieve its spring glow. Experts recommend drinking two or three cups a day for optimum benefits.
Prevent dry skin: Niacin, riboflavin, vitamin A … oh my! The list of nutrients needed to keep your skin healthy is longer than Santa’s. The good news is that that means everything from cereal to carrots can play a role in keeping dry skin away.
Let’s start with niacin. The B vitamin is helpful in preventing the skin rashes and inflammation that can occur in dry weather, according to the National Institute of Health. Niacin can be found in eggs, lean meats and legumes.
Riboflavin is another B vitamin required for healthy skin. Breads and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin, the institute says, but you can also get it from eggs, milk and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin A helps cells reproduce, which will aid in turning old, dry skin into new, supple skin. Eating vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables, such as cantaloupe, passion fruit, tomatoes, sweet potato, carrots and spinach, can help your skin retain moisture.
Tame dry hair: Your mother probably told you to eat your broccoli, but she may not have told you that it would be good for your looks.
“The unique combination of emollient oils and fatty acids in broccoli can make hair stronger and more lustrous,” said Dr. Charles Crutchfield, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Because of the lack of moisture in the air, hair can be brittle and easily damaged during winter. Any food with a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids will help soothe stressed strands. Look for fish, olive oil and nuts in your local grocery store.
Protect your nails: Has a walnut brownie caught your eye? There’s a healthy component to that tempting treat. Walnuts contain biotin, a B vitamin that helps strengthen nails, according to Crutchfield. Strawberries are another good source of the important nutrient.
Fingernails also contain the protein keratin, which helps protect your nails from environmental damage. Eat foods that are also high in protein like lean meats and low-fat dairy products to prevent weakness.
Bone up: Winter weather is extra dangerous for bones, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Protect yourself from the inside by building strong bones with Vitamin D.
Unfortunately, the Office of Dietary Supplements says very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Beef liver, mushrooms, cheese and egg yolks top the list.
If you’re not ready to dish yourself a heaping plate of liver, look for products that have been fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals. Spending some time in the sunshine will also help your body absorb the nutrient; just make sure to slather on some SPF!
Avoid the vampire look: You may blame pasty skin on the lack of sunshine this time of year, but your diet can have a lot to do with your face’s rosy glow.
People who aren’t getting enough iron have lower red blood cell counts, which may make them appear pale, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and mollusks like oysters, clams and scallops are iron-rich foods that will help bring back your pinch-able cheeks.
Other vegetables can also help brighten a dull exterior. Carotenoids are natural pigments that produce the color in vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center; they’ll do the same for your skin.
Prepare for the future: There’s nothing like a hot cup of cocoa after a day frolicking in (or shoveling) snow. And since researchers at Cornell University say the delicious drink contains a healthy dose of antioxidants, you shouldn’t feel guilty about indulging. The antioxidants protect your body from free radicals that can damage cells, according to the National Institute of Health.
Need more convincing? A study published in the August edition of the journal Hypertension showed that flavanols – the main type of flavonoids, or antioxidants, found in cocoa and chocolate – may even improve mild cognitive impairment in the elderly.