How to stay healthy during cold Canadian winters
I think we can all agree that last winter was one of the most brutal we have had since most of us can remember. Besides all the ice, snow and cold, winter has a way of keeping us indoors and getting us out of healthy routines.
In the summer our days are much longer and we spend our evenings outdoors. Many of us indulge in outdoor sports such as golf, tennis, biking and even taking nice long walks. As winter approaches and sets in, most of these activities are now off the board.
Summer is a season for fresh fruits and salads from locally grown farmers. We get fresh Ontario raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and wonderful apples from nearby farms. We tend to eat lighter and are more active. However, once the cold weather sets in, we seek comfort foods that are not as healthy and not as nutritious. We trade in our salads for hot soups which usually contain a great amount of salt. We seek heavy foods that keep us full and warm, rather than lighter summer foods which usually mean weight gain and getting out of shape.
In order to stay healthy, keep fit and not gain any weight, I have devised a four point plan which involves healthy diet, the right supplements, exercise and sleep.
During the winter you may not be able to get locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, but you must make it a priority even though you have to pay more for produce. In fact, now that organic is so popular, (even Walmart carries organic) buy organic because they contain 4 times the nutritional value of non-organic.
If you are seeking nice warm soups, then try making your own or buy the “Happy Planet soups” which are in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. This is a lot healthier than sodium-laden soups from Campbell’s.
You may find yourself eating more bread, so opt for the 12 grain variety and although you crave nice thick pastas, if you use multigrain or flax pasta, it will be much heathier than the flour variety.
The best advice I can give you is the actual real Mediterranean Diet. This consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, your own dressing made with herbs, spices, olive oil and vinegar, cooking everything in olive oil and eating primarily fish, a some chicken and a small amount of red meat. Of course, if you really want to adhere to this diet, you must have a glass of wine with the main meal of the day. This is basically a low-carbohydrate diet, in which most of the fats come from olive oil, and the fish and the protein comes from fish, nuts (walnuts or pecans), chicken and a small amount of beef. There is no better combination of food than the Mediterranean diet if you want to be healthy and fit.
Canadians feel so good in the warm summer months, that many of them discontinue their supplements because they feel they are eating fresh food and getting outdoors. Now that most of our fresh food is imported and we have to deal with all the viruses and bacteria that attack us during the winter months, it is time to make sure we are taking the right supplements.
This is one of the most important supplements because we get most of our Vitamin D from the sun and there is hardly any in our food supply. That is the reason I recommend at least 2000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 every day. Almost every metabolic pathway in our bodies uses Vitamin D3, so in order to maximize your health you must keep sufficient levels of this vitamin.
Omega-3 fish oil
You may not be eating as much fresh fish as you did in the summer, unless one of you goes ice fishing. This supplement is beneficial to your brain, your heart, your immune system and is an amazing inflammatory product for osteoarthritis. I recommend the Naka brand, either liquid or capsules, because it is the highest quality you can get at the lowest possible price. It is micro filtered so that it contains zero contaminants, which you will get with fresh fish.
If you do the healthy diet as I mentioned earlier, the Mediterranean Diet, then it is not necessary to take a multivitamin. However, in this case I recommend a high potency multi B complex which contains all your B vitamins, B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. This gives you an extra burst of energy for those dark short dreary days of winter. On the other hand, if you are not eating as healthy as you should, then a complete multi vitamin would be best for you. My recommendation is the Sisu brand Supreme Multivitamin, because it contains high levels of all the B vitamins along with all the other vitamins and minerals.
This is an old standby but is absolutely necessary for many reasons. By winter, the availability of citrus fruits is very poor and the ones we import are low in all their nutrients. Vitamin C is vital to maintain immunity against most of winter’s invading organisms. In fact, new research shows that Vitamin C combined with the amino acid L-Lysine, is protective for your heart. I recommend at least 1000mg of Vitamin C every day. Since I am one of those with a very healthy diet, 2 salads a day, all organic, I take a product called Super Stress made by Quest which is 50mg of all the B vitamins combined with 1000mg of Vitamin C. Of course if you did get a cold, then high doses of Vitamin C will shorten its duration.
Once the winter sets in it is dark when we wake up and dark when we come home. Most of us do not have any incentive to go out to a gym or even go out for a walk. It’s cold out there. We just want to go to work and then come home. Once we fall into this pattern, energy levels drop and weight gain begins. In a very short period of time you can be totally out of shape. So what can you do? You can try taking short walks of 10 or 15 minutes, and this will give you 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a week. If you are really determined, you may join a gym and work out 3 or 4 days a week, but that is more the exception than the norm. You may buy a treadmill or a stationary bike that will eventually become a clothes hanger. The answer is to accept the reality that you cannot do as much in the winter, so lower your goals. If it is too slippery to walk outside, go up and down the steps of your house for 10 or 15 minutes. Go out in the morning and evening to the mall and become a mall walker making sure to avoid the food court. Join a recreation club such as Huntington recreation centre. A senior membership is $35 a year and this allows you to do pool exercises which are non-impact and extremely healthy as an aerobic exercise. Be prepared to do a lot less than you would in the summer, but as long as you do something, you will at least have a better chance at staying in shape.
You can eat all the proper foods, take the right supplements and exercise daily. If you do not get a good night’s sleep, you will be sleep deprived and have absolutely no energy to get through your day. Sleep is critical to your good health. For some strange reason, insomnia affects a lot more females than males. When I practised pharmacy, I would estimate that 80 per cent of my insomniacs who took sleeping pills were women.
If you need something to get to sleep, take it. There are many natural products available such as melatonin, passion flower, L-tryptophan and valerian. If they do not work, there are the over-the-counter drug store products such as gravol (dimenhydrinate) or motion sickness pills, and Benadryl (dimenhydramine), an antihistamine that causes drowsiness.
Prescription sleeping pills such as Imovane ( zopiclone), Ativan (lorazepam) or Restoril (temazapam) are very effective, and even though they may be habit forming, they have no dangerous side-effects or long lasting effects. Of course,they must never be taken with alcohol.
Of course you can do everything right and still pick up a cold from someone, but at least if you are healthy, eat right and do all the things in this article you will recover very quickly.