I am betting you can think of a friend or family member who may be sick right now. We are in the middle of high cold and flu season especially with the way the weather has been all across the country. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 15 million people have contracted the flu, 140,000 have been hospitalized, and there are a reported 8,200 deaths this flu season so far. Millions of people also catching the less severe common cold. Adults catch colds on average 2-3 per year and children even more. I want to assume you all are doing the basics such as getting vaccinated, washing your hands, exercising, getting decent sleep, eating healthy, and not constantly touching your face. All these simple daily acts can effect your chances of catching a cold or flu. Since these are things most of us already know about let’s talk about a few extra precautions you can take to supercharge your immune system and keep you healthy. Here are five things you can add to your diet through food or supplements that can help strengthen your immune system according to research.
The Sunshine Vitamin:
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it also plays a role in both the innate and adaptive immune system. A deficiency might impair normal immune functions and regulation, and increase chances of infection. It is reported that up to 42% of the general adult population have a vitamin D deficiency and it’s much higher in certain groups. Around 600 IU is recommended for the average person, but some special cases may need up to 4,000 IU depending on health needs. I broke a metatarsal in my right foot a few years back. The podiatrist recommended me taking up to10,000 IU to help my broken bone heal faster. Then she recommended I continue taking a higher amount of vitamin D moving forward. Currently I supplement my diet with 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. The body can stock up on vitamin D by getting sunshine as well as foods such as tuna, Swiss cheese, salmon, fortified orange juice and milk, egg yolk, beef liver, and more. It is best to try and get essential vitamins through food, but a supplement can help as well.
A lack of vitamin C was the downfall of many pirates in the form of scurvy. The lists of health benefits of vitamin C are many including boosting ones immune system to fight off sickness. Since our bodies do not store vitamin C we have to obtain it from foods daily. Research has shown that vitamin C doesn’t effect the severity or duration of colds, but can help reduce the frequency of ever catching one. So taking a bunch of vitamin C once you are already sick is probably not helping. The key is to bring in adequate levels of vitamin C all the time. The RDA of vitamin C is 75-90 mg daily, but supplementing with 500 mg of vitamin C has been shown to drastically reduce the frequency of catching colds. I personally take 1,000 mg in the morning and another 1,000 mg in the evening daily. Foods high in vitamin C include raw guava, sweet red and green peppers, tomato and orange juice, strawberries, broccoli, potato, citrus fruits, and papaya among many other things.
Minerals that start with Z
The answer is zinc! While this ‘essential trace element’ will not strengthen your immune system to help prevent getting sick studies have shown that supplementing with zinc acetate lozenges of at least 80mg daily can reduce the duration of colds by 40%. Our bodies do not store or produce zinc so we have get
it from foods and/or supplements. One of the best sources of zinc are found in oysters. A lot of proteins contain zinc such as beef, crab, lobster, and pork chops; but small amounts can also be found in beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and even yogurt. If you feel a cold coming on it’s best to start supplementing with zinc acetate immediately until symptoms go away for a shorter, less severe cold.
Affordable and Powerful
Green tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It also happens to be extremely healthy and affordable so you might consider putting the sodas aside. Discovered by the ancient Chinese green tea has been around for centuries with a long list of health benefits that include strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. The key ingredient in green tea is an antioxidant called
EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) which helps prevent cell damage among other things. Switching out soda and other sugary processed drinks with more water and green tea can be one of the healthiest choices you can make all while saving you money.
More Fiber Please
In addition to helping with digestive issues a diet with appropriate amounts of fiber can strength immunity and reduce chances to getting the flu. According to doctors women should look to have 20- 25 grams of fiber and men 30-38 grams depending on age. If you are under 50 shoot for the higher range.
Fiber is part of plant based foods that your body cannot break down so it helps clean your digestive system. You can increase your fiber intake with whole grain cereals, oatmeal, spinach, broccoli, carrots, various beans, fruits, and seeds. More natural foods tend to give our bodies what we need to be our healthiest.
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