It’s that time of year again, dust off the Kleenex and cough medicine. Flu shot or not, winter means common cold season. But with these simple tips and sound nutrition you can give your immune system a boost and banish the sniffles, sore-throat, aches and pains.
Hydration: Water, water, water. I can't stress this one enough. Your body needs water to function, and your immune system is no exception. We tend to get lazier later in the afternoon, so stick to "LBL" -- liter by lunch. Why? If you drink half of your necessary fluids in the morning, it will be easier to sneak in an adequate amount of water later in the day.
A shot of C: Vitamin C increases cold-combative white bloods cells and helps shorten the duration of sickness. Look to brightly-colored, fresh fruits and vegetables such as grapefruits, oranges, kiwi, dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli and red peppers. Seaweed is also a superstar here. In addition to 20% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake, it’s also loaded with vitamin B, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Noshing on seaweed snacks is a great way to satisfy your crunch craving while warding off disease.
Up the antioxidants: Reduce your body’s natural inflammatory response that turns on to battle a cold with stocking up on powerful antioxidants. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Beta-carotene (vitamin A) in particular helps heighten immunity and is found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin and cantaloupes, as well as dark leafy greens. Some research shows that drinking 2-3 cups of green or white tea per day also aids in sparking our natural defenses with its high level of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.lSalmon is another excellent choice which boasts anti-inflammatory properties and packs another bonus punch of ‘heart-healthy fats’ with omega-3 fatty acids.
Beneficial bacteria: Yogurt is packed with beneficial bacterial cultures that help support digestion and our immune system. Consuming a serving of plain low-fat yogurt on a daily basis can help maintain a strong immune system by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria. You can even freeze yogurt on Popsicle sticks for a fun, immune-boosting dessert!
In the zone with zinc: Touted as one of the best minerals to ward off a cold, zinc is best absorbed from sources of red meat as well as chicken, legumes, oysters and fortified whole grain cereals. Zinc aids in the development of immunity-boosting white blood cells. But be careful of overloading with supplements. Too much zinc may actually decrease immune-function. Aim to stay in the range of 8mg per day for women and 11mg per day for men.
Clear the decks!: Help clear your sinuses with hot liquids – mom was right all those year, a steaming bowl of chicken soup does have its benefits. You can also help break up congestion with ‘mucilaginous agents’; try sipping a cup of ginger tea, or add garlic, chili, or even a bit of zesty horseradish to warm, hearty dishes.
Sweat out the germs: Daily exercise and physical activity helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells, our “immunity-superstars” and thereby, helps prevent the occurrence of a cold or the flu. Sweating also helps release bacteria and toxins that build up in our bodies and contribute to sickness.
Preventative measures: Leading a healthy lifestyle will do much to help prevent the onset of pesky colds. Be sure to get adequate sleep each night and limit items that weaken our body’s defenses such as alcohol, excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, excess fat, and fried and processed foods.