Ask our Healthcare Professionals...
How can I eat healthy to boost my immune system and stay healthy through the cold and flu season?
The air is crisp, and the leaves are colorful making fall a beautiful time of the year, but it is also the start of the cold and flu season, so we need to focus on practicing good hygiene. Prevent the spread of these germs by sneezing into your shoulder, or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, wash your hands often with soap & water, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, stay home if you are sick and get a flu shot.
While these techniques are of utmost importance, food and healthy lifestyle choices can boost your immune system. Don’t wait until the nasty bug makes you ill, follow a healthy lifestyle now before the cold or flu slows you down.
Eating a whole food, minimally processed diet loaded with greens, berries, and citrus foods is
vital to a healthy immune system. Think of eating a rainbow of colors from fruits, vegetables, and legumes daily. Vitamin C has long been touted as a cure for colds but little to no evidence has been found from taking vitamin C supplements to prevent or treat colds. We do know that Vitamin C is an antioxidant used to maintain bones, blood vessels and muscle so it is necessary for good health. Rather than isolating one vitamin, whole foods provide various nutrients such as Vitamin A, E, potassium, and flavonoids that all work together to keep your body healthy.
There are many micronutrients that play a role in boosting our immune system. Zinc, iron and selenium found in lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and green, leafy vegetables
are important as well. Iron is best absorbed with foods high in vitamin C. Sulfur-containing foods such as onion and garlic have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Ginger is best known
for relieving nausea, but it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Variety in your diet is key to obtain all these nutrients.
Soluble fiber found in legumes, oats, and certain fruits and vegetables appears to play a role in
in fighting colds and flu as bacteria living in our
guts digest the fiber and produce by-products
that are known to have beneficial effects on the immune system.
A recent review of 25 studies found that when vitamin D supplementation was taken regularly,
respiratory tract infections were decreased 10-50% depending on the level of Vitamin D in an
Non-dietary practices are also vitally important for the immune system such as regular exercise, good sleep practices, limiting alcohol, staying hydrated, managing stress and not smoking.
When you eat a balanced diet filled with whole foods while limiting processed foods, your body
is more equipped to fight off colds and flu as you are giving it the nutrients it needs. Many people tend to decrease fruit and vegetable intake in the winter months, so this year try to increase those colorful foods. One study found those participants who ate one apple per day decreased respiratory infections by 16% so maybe an apple a day does keep the doctor away.
~Kathy Brown-Miner is a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist focusing on translating the science of nutrition and exercise into practical solutions for a healthy lifestyle while valuing the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection. Kathy has an extensive background in using a whole-food, plant-based diet to help those individuals with chronic disease fight inflammation (to improve their health and wellness.)
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