Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to conform to the idea that a bad cold is unavoidable during the winter months. The key to protect your family, friends, colleagues and yourself is to boost the immune system. Our first and most important tool is appropriate nutrition.
Are you ready to provide better nutrition to your immune system, so it can protect you more?
- Fermented foods: the good bacteria in our gut are our number one allies to boost our immune system. That is one of the many reasons it is important to consume a variety of fermented foods regularly. Among all the choices, milk kefir is the most powerful, mostly the kind that says "effervescent" on the label. For those who are dairy intolerant, try some fermented vegetables, tempeh, kombucha and non-dairy yogurt and kefir.
- Rainbow foods: phytonutrients, which give fruits and vegetables their different colours or their characteristic flavours, are the plants defense system. When we ingest them, these phytonutrients protect us. The most variety we can put in our plates, the better.
- Garlic: what a better thing to include in your meal than a generous amount of sauteed garlic and onions? Not only delicious, the phytonutrient called allicin that gives garlic its strong flavour and smell works wonders fighting colds and flus. In addition to using it in many cooked dishes, you can benefit from raw garlic in dips such as hummus or in condiments such as pesto. If you start sneezing, don't be shy to add one or two chopped cloves to your bread with butter or olive oil.
Ginger: it helps to clear stuffy noses and relief cough. Grate it fresh into your stir fry recipes or Indian-style soups and stews. Or have a cup boiled water with fresh ginger or a ginger tea every day after your largest meal. Ginger also aids digestion.
- Raw honey: besides having 10 strains of good bacteria that help your microflora stay healthy and your immune system in check, raw honey is a natural expectorant that helps loosen mucus so you can cough it up. Have a teaspoon everyday to help prevent colds and flu.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: found abundantly in dark green leaves vegetables, citrus fruits as well as in red fruits and veggies, vitamin C is a traditional cold- and flu-fighter nutrient. If you are stressed during the winter season, try to increase the consumption of lemons, limes, oranges, spinach, arugula, kale, red peppers, tomatoes and strawberries, since stress depletes vitamin C.
- Protein: we need protein for more than building and repairing muscles. Among other important functions, protein is essential to the immune system, since antibodies are made out of amino acids, the end product of protein breakdown. Meat, poultry and fish are the easiest options, but if you prefer to go meatless, make sure to consume legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains everyday.
- Mushrooms: they have antiviral properties, fighting the microbes that cause colds and flu. It does not matter which one is your favourite – Portobello, white, cremini, reishi, maitake or shiitake - all of them are beneficial.
- Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds: these are vegan foods rich in selenium and zinc, two minerals that help boost the immune system. Oysters and beef are other excellent sources of zinc.
- Wild salmon: high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, it is a wonderful addition to your diet, especially during the winter season. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin D is associated with lower risk of infections. We know that in the cold months, our vitamin D levels drop because of the lack of exposure to sunlight, so we need to get most of it from foods. Still, supplementation and luminotherapy may be necessary during this period of the year.
Please remember that in addition to having a balanced, nutritious, varied eating plan during the winter, it is important to keep other healthy habits as well. These include sleeping well, being physically active and managing stress. This way, you are on the good path to a wonderfully healthy 2018. Cheers!