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5 Expert Tips to Overcome Dehydration & Prevent Colds

by Ashley Koff, RD, Natural Vitality Living Nutrition Editor

Winter is here. We see it in dry skin, hair and nails and the bad bugs that can lead to winter colds.

How do we spell protection against winter dryness and colds? Hydration.

Sometimes hydration is only thought of as a summertime issue. When we are hot, we sweat, and we remember to drink lots of water and eat water-based foods. We wear hats to shield our hair and skin from the sun, and we lather on the moisturizer.

Habits change in the winter. We switch from water-based vegetables to winter's more starchy varieties; we trade raw salads for warm soups; and our iced teas often become hot tea with milk, hot cocoa and hot cider. Translation: Less water, more sodium = Dehydration.

Furthermore, we often forget our skin under all those clothes; and while sun exposure may not be our issue (though winter sun should not be ignored), indoor heat has a powerful drying effect on our skin.

What to do? Follow these tips to improve winter health by way of hydration:

1. Potassium: Make sure to include potassium-rich foods and beverages, which help bring water into our cells for hydration: coconut water, bananas, potatoes and avocado are all great ways to boost potassium levels.

2. Watch Sodium: Be careful with excess sodium, which keeps water outside our cells (dehydrating). Make your own soups or look for low-sodium options. Use spices versus salt; and when using salt, aim for a sea salt that contains an array of minerals. Avoid canned and packaged foods where salt is used as a preservative, and choose fresh and frozen options (sodium can still be an issue in these packaged foods, so read labels). In general, sodium should be less than 250 mg per serving; but in some foods, such as soups, it's likely to be higher versus others, like frozen vegetables, where there should be zero. Check the Ashley Koff Approved lists on my site for good choices, and always compare products in a category (i.e., cereal, soups, etc.).

3. Water: Yes, you need it . . . 8 glasses, or take your weight in pounds and divide it in half and that will give you your daily ounces requirement (if you weigh 150 pounds, then that's 75 ounces; and there are 8 ounces in a cup, so you need between 9 and 10 cups daily).

4. Oil Up: When you get out of the shower, or after you wash your face, add some oils like coconut or argan to your skin to lock in moisture. Also, you can spray a hydrosol on your face in the day and reapply a dot of oil to the nose and lip areas, which tend to get dry the quickest. Choose alcohol-free skincare products to avoid extra dryness.

5. Shrooms: Yup, adding mushrooms like maitake and shiitake to the diet are great ways to boost your immune system.