There’s nothing like waking up with a cold to motivate me to be more proactive about my health. Giving your immune system a boost can prevent cold viruses from claiming you as a victim, but many products are marketed as benefiting your immune system – ever wonder which ones may really work? I sorted through the hype to find the best tips for fighting colds and flu with a healthy diet.
Vitamin D seems to be at the top of every list, and with good reason. Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system and studies have found that people with low vitamin D levels are at increased risk for colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. To make matters worse, our exposure to the sun —which makes your body produce vitamin D-- is limited in the winter, making more of us susceptible to a deficiency. Increase your intake of vitamin D by consuming more of these food sources:
Vitamin C is a popular fix, but it’s been documented that vitamin C does not prevent colds except in some people who are physically stressed, such as marathon runners. However, there is evidence that extra vitamin C during the first stage of a cold can help shorten its duration and intensity. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which enhances immune defense and lowers risk of infection. Get plenty of these:
Probiotics are good bacteria that strengthen immunity and keep bad bacteria in check. Some research shows probiotics may reduce respiratory infections. Your best sources:
Protein is essential since it provides the building blocks of immune molecules. In addition to the dairy and fish already listed, include these protein sources on a regular basis:
Liquids are key to keeping your body hydrated, which helps your immune system keep viruses at bay. If you drink juice, limit it to 4-6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice per day so that you don’t get excessive calories and sugar. Also include plenty of these:
Overall good nutrition also is important, so be sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. There is scientific evidence that what you eat and drink can affect your immune system. I hope you use these tips to stay healthy; I know I will!
As seen in the Fort Collins Coloradoan
Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND
is a nutrition educator with over 20 years experience as a college professor, nutrition coach, presenter and writer, as well as a nutrition consultant and founding director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.