Stuffiness. Sore throat. Lethargic muscles. Fever. Many will agree that getting the flu is one of the most miserable parts of the cold-weather months.
Luckily, there are steps we can take to reduce our chances of getting ill. Those include the obvious, such as avoiding those who are sick, washing our hands frequently, sleeping seven to eight hours nightly and practicing self care.
But, since our immune systems are our first line of defense in the fight against bacteria, germs and viruses infiltrating our bodies, we should make sure to get it in the best shape possible. And that includes eating well.
Follow these simple steps from Certified Nutritional Health Counselor, Sara Siskind, founder of Hands On Healthy, cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York.
Add Color to your Life
We should strive to eat colorful fruits and vegetables, because they are rich in vitamins and minerals. They contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, that may help your body fight off infections—plus their phytonutrients gives your immune system a much-needed boost during flu season.
Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Eat them raw or peel and add to a blender with ice for a delicious smoothie.
You can also make a stir-fry of cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. A recent study, published by Science Daily, found that green veggies ensure that the immune cells in our stomachs and our skin, known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes, functions properly.
Make nuts an essential part of your day and snack on a daily handful of almonds or pistachios. They are filled with antioxidants and heart healthy fats that can help our bodies absorb vitamin E. Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria.
A study published in MedLine reported that vitamin E deficiency was associated with increased infectious diseases while its supplementation was shown to have a beneficial effect on the immune system. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6, which helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells that our bodies need.
Enjoy foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and selenium that can help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. They are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.
A healthy suggestion: Rub a 4-oz piece of salmon with extra virgin olive oil. Season it with sea salt, black pepper and broil for 20-30 minutes. Serve with steamed broccoli and baked sweet potato.
The many touted benefits of yogurt cannot be denied. It is the perfect go-to breakfast or snack. It contains “healthy bacteria" that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease causing germs. In an 80-day study from the University of Vienna, Austria factory employees who were given Lactobacillus — a probiotic found in yogurt—took 33 percent fewer sick days than those given a placebo. Try making an immune boosting protein shake by blending berries and Greek yogurt together.
Add Spice to Your Life
In addition to making your meals taste better, spices such as turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon contain antioxidants, which has been found to reduce inflammation in our bodies.
Add turmeric spices to your chili, soups, eggs, rice, and poultry or try Good Day Chocolate with Tumeric supplement. Fresh grated ginger is great addition to your beverages and cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, or baked goods.