Staying healthy in winter conditions

By Erin Kolb

Eating a balanced diet can play a role in staying healthy during the winter months.

Martha O’Gorman, Recreation Services’s nutrition program director and registered dietitian, said the season’s weather prevents people from getting necessary nutrients.

“The colder winter weather prevents us from getting all the vitamin D we need from the sun,” she said. “Buying milk fortified with vitamin D or taking a multivitamin can help ensure adequate intake of this vitamin.”

Nutrients are found naturally in food, and Peggy James, general manager of natural food market Duck Soup Coop, 129 E. Hillcrest Drive, said it is best to get nutrients directly from the food rather than through supplements.

“The best way to get your vitamins is through the food you eat,” she said. “If you can’t always do that, supplements do have a place, but our posture is sort of that if you eat healthfully, you’re going to get a lot of the nutrients, a lot of the vitamins, a lot of the minerals that you’re going to need to be healthy from your food.”

James advised against eating a lot of highly processed foods because such foods take the natural nutrients out and process the nutrients into something artificial and less healthy.

James said that although a lot of fruits and vegetables might not be in season, they are usually still available at a steeper price. She said during the winter, people buy a lot of greens and citrus fruits.

Alicia Czachowski, assistant director of NIU’s Health Enhancement program, said the high price of produce often deters students from purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables, but eating a balanced diet has an array of personal benefits.

“A lot of people are concerned when coming to school about gaining the freshman 15,” she said. “If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you’ll be less likely to gain weight, you’ll feel better, you’re getting the nutrients and vitamins your body needs and overall your body will function at a better capacity.”

Along with feeling better, O’Gorman said a balance of nutrients can lessen the likelihood or length of a winter illness.

“Vitamin C has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce the length of a cold one might experience,” O’Gorman said. “You get vitamin C while enjoying fruits and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, broccoli, bell peppers and brussels sprouts.”

Along with eating healthy, Czachowski said there are other ways to be healthy in winter.

“People should be exercising year round,” she said. “It’s harder in the winter because outdoors is no longer an option, but there’s places like Campus Rec where they can go work out, get that exercise.”