Although cold and flu can be caused by a virus, it’s not the main cause of the illness. What makes you catch either is mainly a weakened immune system from not eating well, vitamin deficiencies, not sleeping enough and stress. Of course, a virus is needed to trigger flu symptoms but if you have a strong immune system, your body will fight it.
Below are 20 things to do to keep your immune system strong against any flu virus:
1. Avoid refined sugar. It increases inflammatory markers in blood. Remove it from your coffee or tea. Instead, use Stevia, a natural low-calorie sweetener.
2. Avoid processed and pre-packaged food and soft drinks. These are high in sugar and unhealthy additives that weaken your immune system.
3. Have your carbs from natural sources like whole grains, oats, potatoes, lentils, and beans. For example instead of having pasta and bread that are processed and nutritionally empty, go for potatoes or sweet potatoes that provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help you keep a healthy immune system.
4. Have 1 or 2 servings of fruit a day. Fruit are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals. More free radicals mean lower immune system.
5. Have berries: raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. These have the most powerful antioxidant punch.
6. Have oranges too. They’re high in vitamin C. Regular vitamin C consumption from foods was shown to reduce the risk of catching a cold. Also, they’re among top 5 fruit with most antioxidant capacity, along with berries.
7. Don’t bother with vitamin C supplements if you feel sick. Although vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy immune system, research found that vitamin C supplements are not effective for curing a common cold as some people believe.
8. Make sure you’re having chicken, fish or beef for both lunch and dinner. These are high in Zinc, a mineral that enhances your immune system.
9. Consider zinc supplements if you feel you’re getting sick. Research found that taking zinc within 24 hours of onset of flu symptoms reduces the duration of common cold symptoms.
10. Eat green vegetables like spinach and broccoli as much as you can. They’re not only high in vitamin C, but also rich in antioxidants. Try including them for both lunch and dinner.
11. Flavor your meals with sumac, turmeric, oregano, cinnamon or cocoa. These have the highest antioxidant content among herbs and spices.
12. Include garlic in your meals from time to time. Garlic is another potent antioxidant with antimicrobial properties. It can kill bacteria and viruses.
13. Go for 15 minutes under the sun daily. The best source of vitamin D is direct sun exposure. Less than optimal vitamin D levels were shown to increase the risk of catching a cold.
14. Have more oily fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna. These are best food sources of Vitamin D.
15. Drink water. Water is required for the optimal function of all your body organs. Multiply your weight (kg) by 35. The number you get is how many mL of water you should aim for every day.
16. Drink hot things. Herbal teas like green tea, ginger and peppermint, homemade soups and hot water with lemon and honey are helpful to fight against flu. These help you sweat, a good way for eliminating a virus from your system.
17. Make sure you sleep at least 6 hrs a night. Not getting enough sleep increases the risk for a hostile viral takeover.
18. Exercise at least 2 to 3 hours a week. Try any sort of cardio or resistance training. Regular and moderate exercise boosts your immune system.
19. Get on that mat and do some yoga or meditate. These are best to manage daily stress for a stronger immune system. We underestimate stresses role in increasing illness resistance. Emotional stressors can predispose your body to an infection.
20. Quit smoking. Smoking makes changes in the respiratory track and decreases the immune response, which increases infection risk.
Written by Lauren Jacobsen, Nutrition Director