Cold weather evokes scenes of crackling fires, steaming hot cocoa, and classical holiday music. Yet, it reminds us of tissue boxes, throat lozenges, and cough medicine that tend to come with dropping temperatures as well. Viruses are spread more easily during the winter, but keeping your gut balanced with fermented milk and other fermented dairy can protect you from getting sick so you can enjoy a healthy holiday season!
The digestive tract, or “gut”, is a key player in preventing you from getting sick. With the support of your microbiome, your gut has lots of “good” bacteria that help your body get rid of invaders such as viruses, bacteria, and allergens – think flu, stomach bug, and pollen.
A diverse gut microbiome means that there are different types of gut bacteria and is essential to good gut health. Prebiotic and probiotic foods help diversify your microbiome.
Prebiotics are the food that probiotics need to survive and thrive. Prebiotics include wheat, garlic, bananas, asparagus, and more. Foods with fiber are great sources! The USDA recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories that you eat per day. This is about 30-40 grams of fiber per day! If you are trying to improve your fiber intake, make sure to increase it slowly to prevent stomach discomfort.
Fermented Milk and Plants
Probiotics are found in dairy foods, such as kefir and yogurt, and fermented vegetables, such as pickles and sauerkraut. Probiotic supplements are also an option.
Bolster your microbiome this winter with these recipes that pair the power of dairy and plants to promote gut health:
- Banana Bread Overnight Oats
- Ancient Grain Hot Cereal
- Gorp Sundae
- Fermented Warm Grain Bowl
- White Bean Corn Chowder
- Overnight Greek and Grain Salad
- Holiday Drinks
What if you do get sick? Take care of your body by getting adequate sleep and hydration. Try these strategies when water isn’t quite cutting it:
- Add milk to your tea or try a new tea recipe
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with this Chocolate Comfort Sipper
- Warm up a bowl of red pepper and tomato soup for a nourishing meal that provides fluids, electrolytes, prebiotics, and probiotics
- Smoothies are a good alternative to soup if you need something cold on your throat
Cheers to health, happiness, and a diversified gut this winter season!
Emily Lepping Smith, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a masters degree in Strength and Conditioning. She has worked with numerous professional athletes and NCAA Division 1 universities across 12 different sports. She and her husband help people all over the country achieve their health, fitness, and performance goals with their online nutrition and fitness coaching business, AMBIT Health and Performance.