The winter season can be a time of rest and reflection. But with this cold season comes holidays, poor diet, friends and family and stress, which can often lead to illness. Food and nutrition are the foundation for health and a good immune system. It is important to boost your system with foods high in bioflavonoids, Vitamin C, zinc and probiotics. Eating a wide variety of color in your diet is a simple way to make sure you are getting a broad range of nutrients. Also, eating simply with plenty of liquids will support you this season.
Make sure you are getting probiotics daily either through a supplement or cultured vegetables, such as raw kimchi and sauerkraut. A strong immune system relies on a well balanced gut. Your gut houses 90% of your immune system!
Your momma didn’t lie: Chicken soup is very healing when you are sick, especially when you make your broth from the bones. Chicken is also a great source of selenium and zinc. A deficiency of zinc can leave your body more susceptible to infections. Mushrooms and green vegetables are good additions to your soup. Mushrooms are rich in selenium, required for immune function. Shiitake mushrooms have been used for centuries by the Chinese and Japanese to treat colds and flu. They appear to stimulate the immune system, help fight infection and increase anti-tumor activity. Eat a variety of non-starchy vegetables, especially greens! Greens are full of phytonutients, protective elements that fight harmful toxins, bacteria and viruses. Dark leafy greens are a great source of chlorophyll, calcium and iron. If you are feeling unwell, make sure you are getting high amounts of Vitamin C from broccoli, cabbage, bell peppers, sprouts, parsley and citrus fruits.
Spices and herbs not only make food delicious, but also give your immune system a big boost. Just sprinkling a little cayenne or eating a half clove of garlic a day can make a big difference in the severity and duration of a cold or flu. Garlic and onions are versatile and a great remedy for the common cold. The compounds allicin and allium in garlic help to ward off germs. Oregano is also very effective in killing harmful pathogens. Cayenne and other hot peppers not only help clear out a stuffy nose but are also high in vitamin C.
Sipping on hot tea is a great way to clear out any congestion. It is also very soothing and comforting for a sore throat. Ginger, chamomile, peppermint, nettle or fresh lemon juice are all great choices. Sage, slippery elm and marshmallow root are especially helpful in relieving a painful throat.
Rest and movement are equally important in keeping you well this winter. Allow yourself more sleep and take naps if necessary. Sleep is an excellent healer. Move your body through yoga or go for a brisk walk outside in the crisp air. Avoid all inflammatory and mucous producing foods if you find your self starting to get sick; this includes processed carbohydrates, dairy, red meat, soy, gluten and all forms of sugar. Overeating sugar weakens your immune system by decreasing your white blood cell activity. Try to aim for a diet that is rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes and moderate amounts of animal protein to keep you feeling healthy throughout the year.