It's impossible to avoid other people's hacking coughs, sniffling and sneezes all winter long, but you can flu-proof your health naturally with food, exercise and sleep.
You probably won't ever get a prescription for chicken soup and garlic from the doctor when you catch your next cold, but it might help you kick it, according to research about the health benefits of broth, which our grandmothers knew. By eating nutrient-rich foods, drinking orange juice and taking vitamin supplements we can strengthen the body's immune system.
Though we are regularly exposed to more than 200 viruses, a healthy lifestyle appears to be the key factor in our ability to win the battle against colds and flu. If our health is compromised, we are more susceptible to illness. Stress is a big culprit that weakens our ability to fight illness. It's hard to avoid, so how well we cope plays a significant role.
With children constantly exposed to flu bugs at school and falling ill, parents are vulnerable to the latest strains. Reports of new superfoods, from acai berries to chia seeds, and protein-rich grains, like quinoa, surface regularly with compelling information of their value in our diet. But measures to prevent illness may be as simple as good nutrition, proper rest and regular fitness.
Staying healthy requires developing simple good habits, which is nothing new. Here are the five keys to preventative care for the coming cold season:
1. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods
A diet of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein helps provide immune boosters that prevent illness. Other advice includes avoiding sugar to reduce inflammation, as well as fatty foods, and drinking sufficient water to keep hydrated.
Other common foods with special immune-boosting properties include:
- Honey has anti-bacterial properties for cold, flu and sore throat treatments
- Garlic is an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial immune booster
- Berries have antioxidant properties that protect the immune system, destroy bacteria and viruses, and help fight disease. Mix up including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, elderberries, and more.
2. Exercise for a Healthy Lifestyle
Regularly exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Physical activity improves immune function by increasing white-blood cell activity that attacks viruses.
3. Develop Healthy Ways to Handle Stress
Stress hormones impact the immune response. Cope with stress by practicing yoga, listening to music, taking walks, frequent laughter and massage, which improves our immune system.
4. Sleep Well
Sleep repairs cells and helps the body heal to keep disease at bay. Loss of sleep can result in a suppressed immune system. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
5. Supplement Your Diet
Vitamins A, C, B-complex and D support immune function. Supplements offer reinforcements in addition to food sources during flu-season.
- Vitamin A contains beta-carotene and retinol, which are important to immune function. The best sources are carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and mangoes; green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale; red fruits and vegetables, like watermelon and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C tops the list of immune boosters and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Foods rich in C are papaya, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, bell peppers, broccoli, orange and grapefruit.