With the change of the seasons comes a challenge that most dancers aren’t quite ready to face: the common cold. Not only are you likely to be navigating an over-booked schedule as you move into winter performances and the holiday season, but colder temperatures may promote the transmission of viruses and indirectly increase your risk of getting sick.
Nutrients To Boost Immunity
Vitamin C is a nutrient often touted for its benefits in immune support. However, it must be supplied through our diet since the human body is not able to create nor store this vitamin on its own. The benefits of vitamin C go beyond reducing your sniffles. Vitamin C strengthens collagen, which is a major component of skin health and tissue healing. For dancers specifically, vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, preventing cellular stress and damage; especially important for dancers, as muscles are constantly engaged and strained.
With so much to give, vitamin C is commonly a supplement of choice for many dancers. However, when taken throughout the cold season, vitamin C supplements may only modestly reduce symptoms of colds. There is no solid evidence supporting the use of Vitamin C supplements to prevent colds. Vitamin C is found in many fresh fruits and veggies. Foods high in vitamin C include most fresh fruits and veggies, especially citrus fruits, berries, and tomatoes. Increasing your intake of foods high in Vitamin C can help support your immune system. Here are two suggestions:
#1: Add citrus to marinades, dressings, and sauces
Foods high in vitamin C include most fresh fruits and veggies, especially citrus fruits. Luckily, citrus is in season during the winter months making grapefruit, clementines, lemons, and limes easily accessible, affordable, and delicious. Keep a bowl of these on your kitchen counter to snack on or to utilize when cooking. Kiwifruit, mangos, and plums are a few other Vitamin C containing-fruits to add to your meals.
TTPTip: Mix in a splash of lemon with tahini or olive oil and top roasted vegetables or salad to add extra flavor and vitamin C.
#2: Bump Up The Fresh Produce
Vitamin C is both water-soluble and sensitive to heat. Boiling veggies can cause as much as a 50% reduction in a food’s vitamin C content. If choosing to cook your veggies, then choose dry-heat cooking methods such as baking and roasting. Also, the vitamin C content in many fruits and vegetables begins to decrease with long storage times. Aim to enjoy your product within 3 to 4 days of purchasing to maximize your intake.
TTPTip: Kiwi, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, spinach, and broccoli are wonderful sources of Vitamin C that can be eaten fresh or prepared in salads.
Emergent research associates our gut bacteria with countless benefits, including their role in immunity. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Here’s the catch: you’ll want to supply probiotics with their own food source in order to promote their growth
If you find yourself becoming bored with vegetables, then add fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut into your meals. These two products are made from cabbage, a naturally rich source of vitamin C and fiber! An added bonus? Fermented foods will boost your intake of naturally-occurring probiotics. Probiotics are healthy organisms (think of them as friendly bacteria) living along our digestive tract. Emergent research associates our gut bacteria with their role in immunity.
Prebiotics are fibers from all plant-based foods that supply energy for probiotics. Some specific foods containing prebiotics include apples, barley, flaxseeds, onions, garlic, oats, bananas, grains (like bulgur and wheat berries), leeks, and leafy greens.
Before reaching for supplements, consider the role that a varied diet plays in building immunity. Eating a variety of foods, especially plant-based foods, provides us with powerful nutrients to help battle the cold. This is the best way to arm your immunity, especially during these next few (shivery!) months.
Zinc is found naturally in foods such as shellfish, meat, chicken, beef, and fortified breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin C — Fact sheet for health professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/. Accessed Dec. 13, 2019.
- How Vitamin C Supports a Healthy Immune System. (March 22, 2019). Marisa Moore. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/how-vitamin-c-supports-a-healthy-immune-system. Accessed Dec. 13, 2019.
- Taghiyar, M., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Feizi, A., Hariri, M., Mashhadi, N. S., & Darvishi, L. (2013). The effect of vitamins C and E supplementation on muscle damage, performance, and body composition in athlete women: a clinical trial. International journal of preventive medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S24–S30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665021/. Accessed Dec. 123, 2019.