On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms, but sometimes it fails and you get sick. The immune system is precisely that – a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. Many researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, rest, psychological stress, herbal supplements, and other factors on the immune response, but we all know that proper nutrition is vital and it takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away. So how best can you eat for the winter?
WHAT FOODS SHOULD YOU ADD TO THE DIET
Adding certain foods to your diet can definitely boost your immune system and keep you healthy during the fast approaching winter season. Below are some interesting natural foods that can help boost your immunity.
- Yogurt – Probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs and remember a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system. FUTURELIFE® Bran Flakes with Probiotic Sachets is also a great way to get your daily dose.
- Oats & barley – These grains contain beta-glucan (also found in FUTURELIFE® Smart Oats®), a type of fibre with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than Echinacea. It boosts immunity; speeds wound healing, and may help antibiotics work better.
- Garlic – This well-known immune booster is a potent onion relative and contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.
- Tea – The amino acid that is responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea.
- Chicken soup – The amino acid cysteine, released from chicken during cooking, chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine, and may be useful during chest infections. The soup’s salty broth keeps mucus thin the same way cough medicines do. Added spices, such as garlic and onions, can increase soup’s immune-boosting power.
- Fish – Selenium, plentiful in shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams, helps white blood cells produce cytokines- proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protecting lungs from colds and respiratory infections. FUTURELIFE®’s wide range of powdered products are high in omega-3.
- Sweet potato – You may not think of skin as part of your immune system, but this crucial organ serves as a first-line fortress against bacteria, viruses, and other undesirables. To stay strong and healthy, your skin needs vitamin A. One of the best ways to get vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta-carotene (like orange sweet potatoes), which your body turns into vitamin A.
- Mushrooms – For centuries, people around the world have turned to mushrooms for a healthy immune system. Researchers now know why as studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, which help to fight infections.
WHAT FOOD SHOULD YOU AVOID WHEN SICK?
While it’s great to know which foods help boost the immune system, it is also as important to know which foods to avoid while sick or battling a cold? By eliminating the foods below, whilst hopefully consuming the immune-boosting foods above, you can recover faster and reduce the severity of your symptoms.
- Alcohol – Alcohol weakens your immune system and dehydrates you. Both of these can make your colds more miserable and leave you even worse the next morning. If you come down with a cold, steer clear of most alcohol in order to keep your body optimally hydrated and your immune system functioning on high.
- Juice drinks – If you enjoy juicing and make your own fresh juices, by all means, drink them and enjoy a vitamin C packed recipe of a fruit and/or vegetable juice. Avoid buying anything that is not 100% pure fruit juice when you get a cold. Average juices are loaded with extra sugar and that sugar can reduce the ability of white blood cells to fight illness. Any benefits you might get from the vitamin C are nullified by the sugar inside.
- Fried foods – Stay away from excess fats when you are sick. This goes for processed snacks and fried foods. Foods high in fat produce inflammation, and inflammation produces a less active immune system.
- Fast foods and processed foods – Fast food and most processed foods are void of nutritional value; that is, they bring hardly anything to the table in terms of boosting the immune system or amplifying your health.
By avoiding the above foods and sticking to a diet of whole, fresh foods and plenty of liquids, you could shorten your cold and feel better in no time.
WHAT FOOD IS GREAT TO KEEP YOUR BODY WARM WITHOUT THE WINTER GAIN?
The temperature seems to be dropping now that we’re approaching the start of winter. You can bundle up in heavy sweaters and sit by a fire, but if you really want to stay warm this winter, start with the foods you are eating. None of us want to crawl out of winter a few kilograms heavier than we went in. Try out a few of these healthy foods to keep you warm and prevent unwanted weight gain.
- Hot cup of coffee – Most of us enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on a stormy winter’s day, but try substituting that high sugar drink for a cup of coffee with skim milk. It’s not just the temperature of the coffee that’s helping to keep you warm. The amount of caffeine in just one cup of coffee, can temporarily raise your metabolism by up to 15%, and when your metabolism goes up, so does your body temperature. You can also try a healthier hot chocolate alternative of a FUTURELIFE® warm chocolate drink by mixing the following: 25g FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Smart food™ chocolate flavour, ¾ cup warm low-fat milk, ½ cup boiled water and 1 teaspoon cocoa.
- Soup – Soup is a must-have meal during the winter months because it warms us from inside out. Try to avoid the creamy soups and rather go for the vegetable based, tomato based or broth based soups. Also be careful of the cheesy bread that usually accompanies soups and opt for a low GI slice of bread instead such as FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread™.
- Baked fruit for dessert – If you suffer from a sweet tooth and always feel the need to nibble on something sweet after dinner, try baking fruit in the oven; add some low fat yoghurt and sprinkle with cinnamon for a great tasting, warm and healthy pudding.
- Spicy curry -Try a bowl of spicy curry with some steamed rice to warm yourself up this winter. The herbs and spices found in most authentic curries not only have antibiotic, anti- inflammatory, anti-arthritic, antioxidant and anticancer properties, but they are also known to speed up the metabolism and prevent unwanted weight gain.
So as winter approaches, stock up on foods that will help boost your immune system. But if you are late and already sick then make sure you don’t get any sicker by avoiding these indulgences that will leave you feeling worse. Bundle up and keep your favourite winter warmers close by and have a happy warm winter.