Now that the weather has turned colder, it is time to think about how you can protect yourself and family members from getting colds or flu this winter. There are many things people can do in terms of diet, exercise and habits that can greatly reduce your chances of getting sick.
What diet and other changes can you focus on to boost your immune system and keep you healthy?
1. Fruits and Vegetables – 5 A Day is the suggested amount but eating even more than 5 A Day during the cold and flu season is a wise choice.
a. Antioxidants for your immune system: Fruits and vegetables are not only full of vitamins and minerals but also antioxidants that can help you fight off those infections and build your immune system. But each color of fruit and vegetable has different antioxidants. To ensure you are getting a wide range of colors, vary your colors. Include many different kinds of fruits and vegetables each day.
b. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables – there may be less of a selection of fresh produce this time of year, but don’t hesitate to enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables. They offer the same nutritional value, the antioxidants and help your immune system. Most frozen fruits and vegetables are picked when ripe and frozen right after being harvested thus preserving the vitamins and minerals.
c. Berries – are especially rich in antioxidants. Keep some frozen berries on hand to add to your morning oatmeal, some yogurt or a smoothie.
d. Frozen or fresh vegetables – make some homemade soup and add in some frozen or fresh vegetables.2. Vitamin E – we all think of vitamin C to prevent colds, but vitamin E has an important role to play in enhancing our immune system. Studies have shown this vitamin improves our response to the flu vaccine, and helps ward off colds and other upper respiratory infections.
a. Vitamin E rich foods include:
i. Nuts: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts
ii. Seeds: sunflower seeds
iii. Oils: olive oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil. One tablespoon meets your daily needs.
iv. Peanut butter, wheat germ
v. Fruits and Vegetables: leafy greens like kale, spinach, kiwi, mango, tomatoes
To add vitamin E to your day, use the oils noted in cooking, sautéing food, use in salad dressings.3. Zinc – have a cold? You can buy lozenges with zinc added. Zinc has been shown to reduce the length of a cold and research shows zinc can boost one’s immune system.
a. Protein Foods: Most of us get enough zinc as protein foods like turkey, chicken, lamb, pork, oysters, pork, and yogurt are rich in zinc.
b. Plant sources of zinc: nuts, seeds, beans, chickpeas and whole grains.
4. Fluids – drink plenty of fluids. Water is always good, but add some green tea. Green tea has antioxidants to reduce inflammation. One doesn’t have to drink 8 glasses of water a day as soups, tea, coffee, milk also count as fluids.5. Walk – what does walking have to do with colds and flu? Studies have shown that people who walk at least 20 minutes a day are less likely to get sick. And when they did get sick, their symptoms were milder than those who walked less. Walking doesn’t have to be outside. You can walk at malls, go up and down stairs, walk to a co-worker’s office instead of sending an email.
To incorporate some of these ideas this week:
Cook with olive oil, add a handful of nuts to your day, pack a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, add some fruit to your oatmeal or make a smoothie with some berries. Use a salad dressing with olive oil on a salad of leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce). Take a walk at lunch or after dinner. There are many, simple ways to boost your immune system.
Sources: How to boost your immune system, Foods high in Vitamin E and D, Eat these foods to boost your immune system, The Best Way to Boost Your Immune System, Image source: olive oil