Healthy Eating to Fight Colds and Flu this Season
Posted 5 years ago by Lori Scholle
Aaacchhooo!! Aaachhoo!! Uh-oh!….A sneeze is usually the signal for the start of a cold or flu. In the long, cold, winter months it seems inevitable that you will have at least one bout with a cold or flu virus…or is it? Is it possible to take control and prevent yourself from catching a cold or flu virus?
You can take control of colds and flu in your future through some common sense measures like frequent hand washing, getting adequate rest, aerobic exercise and avoiding dehydration. While these tips are scientifically tried and true they are not the only tools you have to try to prevent catching a cold or flu. Focusing on what you eat to ensure that you are getting enough nutrients in your diet is an important way to make your immune system stronger to ward off potential germs.
Eating a well-balanced diet that focuses on lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as low-fat dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds is a great way to support a healthy immune system which leads to better overall health. The following tips show some ways that eating well can help your immune system work towards fighting off colds and flu:
Eat more fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system strong
Incorporating more red, yellow, orange and dark green leafy fruits and vegetables diet supplies your body with phytochemicals that are important in maintaining your immune system. Phytochemicals are compounds produced by plants that are also known as antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids. Examples of foods from some of the most common antioxidants are listed below:
- Beta-carotene – Fruits and vegetables that are red, orange and yellow along with some dark green leafy vegetables – carrots, spinach, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and broccoli
- Vitamin E – wheat germ, vegetable oils, whole grain foods nuts and seeds
- Vitamin C – strawberries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and citrus fruits
Make your dinner plate your canvas and paint it with as much color as you can to ensure that you are getting a variety of antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids to help accomplish this goal.
Focus on getting your nutrients from whole foods, not supplements
Some people think that taking mega doses of certain supplements, like Vitamin C or Zinc, can prevent you from catching a cold or flu. Taking zinc cannot prevent a cold, however in a recent review of clinical trials using zinc to prevent or minimize common cold symptoms, it was found that healthy individuals who took zinc within the first 24 hours of cold symptoms saw a reduction in the severity and duration of symptoms8. On the other hand, there are not enough clinical trials to support evidence that taking Vitamin C can help to prevent colds nor has it been proven to reduce the severity and duration of a cold6.
It is important to recognize that taking a supplement to “make up for” vitamins and minerals missing as a result of a poor diet may not be enough. Vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables work together to provide you with maximum benefit for overall health and immune system strength. Make it your focus to consume foods that do not contain a label – in other words eat them as nature intended it and you are more likely to get the maximum benefit from your diet.
Eating a cup of yogurt a day has been shown to reduce your risk for catching the cold or flu as it promotes the health of your intestines. All yogurts – full fat, low fat or fat free – contain at least two strains of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, which promote the wellness of your intestines. Look for the words “live active cultures” on the label and the strains of beneficial bacteria will be listed. Intestines are a key player in your body’s ability to ward off colds and flu and the healthier it is the better chance that you have to maintain yours.
Try incorporating these tips into your normal routine and focus on keeping your whole body well. The next time that sneeze appears, rest easy knowing that you have done what it takes to make sure that your immune system is as strong as it can be to fight off whatever cold and flu germs it may encounter!