It’s that time of year. The weather is getting cooler, the sky is getting dark earlier, and everyone around you is getting sick. Sickness and cold weather seem to go hand in hand. But, actually, cold weather does not make you sick. The low temperatures make it easier for viruses to spread, and if your immune system isn’t strong, you are more likely to catch whatever’s going around. The problem is, we normally wait until AFTER we’re sick to start drowning our symptoms in Vitamin C and chicken noodle soup. This year, let’s be proactive and keep our immune systems strong so the sicknesses don’t come calling.
The foods you eat play the biggest role in your sickness and health. Here are six foods to add to your normal diet that will keep you thriving throughout cold & flu season.
- Fruits and veggies both contain Vitamins A and C, plus other antioxidants that help fight harmful substances in our bodies. Aim for at least five total servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Keep in mind one serving equals one cup or one medium piece of fruit.
- Garlic is another immune system booster. Garlic contains nutrients that increase white blood cells, which protect the body against infectious diseases like the cold and flu. Use plenty of fresh garlic cloves in your food to get the full benefits.
- Ginger has natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When your body is inflamed, it’s more susceptible to diseases, and ginger helps to reduce that inflammation. Boost your ginger intake by throwing fresh ginger into a veggie stir-fry or start your morning with a hot cup of ginger tea.
- Nuts and seeds contain plenty of healthy fats, as well as Vitamin E. Vitamin E is another antioxidant the body uses to fight off infections. Eating just 24 almonds gives you a third of all the Vitamin E you need for the day.
- Green tea is packed with polyphenols that can strengthen your immune system and kill viruses. Make drinking at least one cup of green tea a regular part of your day.
- Probiotics may inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and increase the production of natural antibodies, which fight foreign substances in the body. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha and kefir. It can also be taken in supplement form.
Now is the perfect time to do a quick check of your regular eating habits to make some adjustments. Just a few small tweaks can keep your immune system healthy and happy all year round!
Joy Diggs, MS, CPT, RD, LD
Certified Personal Trainer
Registered and Licensed Dietitian