There is a lot of a sickness going around and many people have fallen ill from one bug or another. Maybe you’re one of them. If you haven’t gotten sick yet or don’t want a repeat of your illness, strengthening your immune system is in order.
Eating foods year round that will help support your immune system is a great defense. Making sure you eat foods that contain vitamins A, C, E, and minerals like selenium and zinc is one way you can help ward off colds and flus. Along with that, getting exercise, proper sleep, managing your stress, and washing your hands can increase the chances you won’t get bitten by a bug.
Do you ever wonder why some people at your office get sick while others seem to somehow stay healthy even though you’re all in close proximity breathing the same air? Or why a group of people can eat the same food that’s slightly off but not everyone gets food poisoning? It has something to do with the strength of their immune system.
If you pick up colds easily or are under chronic stress with little sleep, and eat more processed foods than fruits and vegetables, your immune system could use some nourishing. Here are some foods you can eat that will help you do just that.
Foods such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, and squash are rich in carotenoids. They are converted to vitamin A in your body and help to build up your immune system.
Not Just Oranges
It’s important to get enough vitamin C, and you might think oranges are the best source, but there are many others—some of which have even more vitamin C. Broccoli, papaya, red bell peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, and cauliflower are all good sources.
Nuts and Seeds
You can consume nuts and seeds as snacks or as part of meals and you will get lots of nutrients including vitamin E, which is another antioxidant. Grab a handful of pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Add them to salads, oatmeal, or yogurt. Other sources of vitamin E are olives, parsley, spinach, and Swiss chard.
When it comes to supporting your immune system, you can’t forget zinc. It is often deficient in people’s diets and can be found in whole grains, meats, poultry, eggs, chickpeas, oysters, shellfish, and seeds such as squash, sesame, and pumpkin. Research shows that zinc slows the immune response and helps control infections.
Support with Selenium
Another mineral that helps the immune system is selenium. It is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E. You can get it from eating barley, tuna, broccoli, sardines, garlic, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, grass-fed beef, and poultry.
Take Care of Your Gut
Making sure your gut has more good bacteria than bad helps with your immune system. Antibiotics, diets high in sugar and low in fiber, chronic stress, and excess toxins cause an imbalance of your gut flora. Since 70–80% of your immune cells are in your gut, gut health is important. Probiotic foods such as organic, grass-fed sheep’s or goat’s milk yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and kefir will help your gut flora. A probiotic supplement can also help.
Along with eating well and having a healthy gut flora, keeping your stress level in check is good for your immune system. Studies, including one in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that when you’re stressed, you are more susceptible to catching a cold.. While it’s hard to avoid stress completely, we can find ways to manage it. Getting enough sleep, exercising, spending time with loved ones who make you feel good, and taking time to relax by meditating, journaling, or doing yoga can help.
Moving away from processed foods, making sure to move every day, eating foods that support your immune system, and managing stress can help keep you from succumbing to colds or the flu this winter.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net