As the Northeast recovers from the few inches of snow that fell earlier this week, we all begin to settle into the reality that winter has finally arrived; an arrival of which many of us may have been dreading. I personally would love to pick up and move to a warmer climate, but it’s not in the cards right now!
As we embark on another winter, many of you may have already been preparing for how to avoid the typical illnesses that generally occur during this time period. However, if you have not already begun to prepare for how to keep yourself healthy this winter, let’s review some important facts and ways to improve or maintain your health.
Winter is peak cold and flu season. The season usually begins in September and continues into March or April. This time of year creates conditions in which cold and flu viruses can better survive. Both cold and flu viruses require an optimal humidity condition to survive, either below 50% humidity or above 98% humidity. Fall and winter bring significant increases to the amount of heat that is pumped indoors to keep the cold out. These heat settings cause humidity to plummet, therefore creating an environment in which cold and flu viruses thrive. Additionally, people tend to spend more time indoors in these dry and less humid settings, which make nasal passages drier and more vulnerable to infection.
It’s important to keep your immune system in tip-top shape during this time period so that it can effectively fight off cold and flu viruses. Your immune system is the disease-fighting powerhouse of your body. Adequate exercise and rest are key factors that will keep your immune system healthy.
Another key factor is nutrition. Your nutritional intake can play a significant role in boosting or maintaining the health of your immune system. Therefore, it’s important to fuel your system with a variety of nutrient-rich foods. A recent article published in Osage County News explored this concept and recommended the following nutrients and foods in which to find them:
Protein: This major nutrient is important for the formation of immune system molecules that fight infection. The molecules that are made by the immune system are called antibodies and antibodies are made up of protein. Inadequate protein intake could hurt the immune system by not allowing it to make the necessary antibodies needed to prevent and fight illness. Protein rich foods include lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that stimulates antibodies to improve the function of your immune system. This is usually the signature nutrient people turn toward during cold and flu season; luckily it is easy to find and readily available in a wide range of food. Oranges, berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and bell peppers are just a few options.
Vitamin E: This nutrient can be found in spinach, fortified cereals, tomatoes, sunflower seeds and avocados. Vitamin is another antioxidant that works to counteract free radicals.
Vitamin A: This nutrient works to keep skin and body tissues healthy, thereby thwarting infection. Vitamin A can be found in a variety of foods from spinach, kale, and carrots to eggs, liver and fish oils.
Zinc: Zinc keeps the immune system functioning well in addition to healing wounds. Zinc is predominantly found in animal protein such as meat, fish or poultry. It can also be found in beans, nuts, whole grain products and dairy products.
As you can see, it’s important to stock up on nutrient-rich foods in order to keep your immune system healthy and functioning properly.
Now, it’s your turn to take action: how many nutrient-rich foods will you eat this week to either boost or maintain proper immune system function? Please share your “immune fighting plan” in the comments section below.