It's cold and flu season again. Yippee.
The immune system is your body's No. 1 line of defense against the onslaught of viruses, bacteria and other germs that are in abundance this time of year.
That system is turned on or off in part by what you eat and your other health habits. Eating right helps maintain a strong immune system, and so you're less likely to get sick - and even if you do, the symptoms will be milder and you'll recover more quickly.
Some common questions & answers for preventing the sniffles:
Q: What should we eat to prevent the common cold?
A: While an apple a day won't keep the doctor away, filling up your plate with broccoli, spinach and oranges might be just what the doctor ordered! Colorful fruits and veggies full of antioxidants, including beta carotene, vitamin E, selenium and vitamin C. These antioxidants work together to boost the immune response and increase resistance to infection, colds and flu bugs. Ample intake of beta carotene-rich foods, such as carrots, apricots and broccoli, also maintains the skin and mucous linings in the nose and lungs, which are the body's first line of defense against germs. Most people don't get enough of these foods and would do well to double or even triple current intake to at least 8, and preferably 10, servings daily. Some simple immune-boosting snacks include:
- Smoothie made with persimmons, OJ concentrate and yogurt
- One-half honeydew melon filled with lemon yogurt
- Top frozen yogurt with a cup of thawed blueberries
- Dunk baby carrots in peanut butter or red pepper slices in hummus
- dried plums with almonds for a sweet and chewy alternative to a candy bar
- Quench your thirst with OJ or tomato juice instead of soft drinks
- Pack a black bean burrito with baby spinach, tomatoes and salsa
- Add frozen or leftover vegetables to canned soups
Next, cut back on meat and full-fat dairy products, as well as many processed foods in order to keep saturated-fat intake low. While low-fat diets stimulate the immune system and help ward off the common cold, typical American diets high in saturated fat increase a person's susceptibility to colds and the flu.
Long story short - be mindful of what you're eating and your body will thank you this Fall & Winter! Not to mention the money you'll save on Kleenex.