By Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, MS, RDN and Debra Nessel, RDN, CDE
Unfortunately there is no fool proof way to prevent a cold or the flu,
but you can protect yourself with adequate hydration and a healthy immune
system through a balanced diet and daily physical activity.
Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, which offers protection
from seasonal illness such as the flu and other health problems including
arthritis, allergies, abnormal cell development and cancers. Help protect
yourself against infection and boost your immunity by incorporating the
following top 6 recommendations:
Hydration is critical during the drier winter months to keep our mucous membranes
soft and moist, preventing tiny cracks that allow viruses and bacteria
to enter. Also, drinking enough water ensures that your blood will carry
plenty of oxygen to all the cells of your body. All your organs and muscle
fibers need oxygen to function optimally. How much water you need depends
on your size and weight, and also on your activity level and the season.
Store bone broth in your fridge. When you want some, heat it up and sip
it from a mug, like coffee or tea. Recommend 8 ounces per day to keep
viruses at bay.
Protein is part of the body's defense mechanism. Eat a variety of protein
foods including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy
products and unsalted nuts and seeds. Also, can try bone broth, when cooked
the collagen in bones breaks down and, as it cools, turns into a protein
called gelatin. Although gelatin is not a complete protein, it contains
several essential and nonessential amino acids, including arginine, glycine,
Probiotics. Recent research shows probiotics can boost the immune system. Healthy
bacteria found in probiotics can help the gut and intestinal tract fight
off disease-causing germs. Yogurt, kefir, pasteurized pickles, kimchi,
and kombucha are packed with prebiotics. Prebiotics support the growth
of the good bacteria which in turn play an important role in balancing
your body's good bacteria and are stored in the gut. These healthy
bacteria help balance your digestion, immunity, and metabolism. Over-the
counter probiotic supplements may also provide similar benefits.
Vitamins & Minerals
such as Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protects from infections by keeping
skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system
healthy. Get this immune-boosting vitamin from foods such as sweet potatoes,
carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs or foods labeled
"vitamin A fortified," such as milk or cereal.
Vitamin C protects you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies
and boosting immunity. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals
in the body which may help prevent or delay certain cancers and heart
disease, and promote healthy aging. Vitamin C also seems to reduce the
progress of cartilage loss in those with osteoarthritis. Though it may
not keep you from catching a cold, there is evidence that high doses of
vitamin C may decrease the length of cold symptoms by as much as one to
one-and-a-half days for some people. Include more of this healthy vitamin
in your diet with citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines,
or red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice or foods fortified
with vitamin C, such as some cereals.
Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc can
be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans,
seeds and nuts.
Seasonings and Spices.
Garlic and onions have long been touted as immune boosters. In a double-blind study published
in "Advances in Therapy," volunteers who received a daily garlic
supplement were less likely to get a cold, and recovered faster if they
became sick. Add to soups, stews salads etc. for an extra immune boost.
Ginger contains potent chemicals which target stuffy noses and works to suppress
coughs. In a study at the College of Medicine at Kaohsiung Medical University,
researchers found that ingesting fresh ginger inhibits the attachment
of rhinoviruses to cells and also promotes the secretion of antiviral
chemicals to help fight viruses found in mucus membranes
Exercise, particularly, moderate physical activity is a powerful immunity booster.
For example, 30 to 60 minute walk most days per week is considered moderate
exercise. Too much or not enough exercise actually can weaken immune systems.
Try dancing, walking, stationary bicycle, indoor swimming or similar activities
to move more in the winter months.
For more information contact one of our
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the
Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., 3rd Floor, Suite 335. Telephone (310) 891-6707.