It’s November and you know what that means… cold season is among us! Nothing is worse than catching a bad cold – sore throat, low energy, runny nose and the list goes on. In order to prevent getting sick, it’s important to make sure your body is well prepared to fight off any bugs that may cross your path.
You may have heard that taking supplements is needed to help fight off colds. However, following a well-balanced diet can help build and maintain a healthy immune system all year long (1).
Follow these simple tips to stay healthy over the winter months:
Enjoy Colourful Vegetables and Fruit
Almost every nutrient works towards keeping the immune system healthy (1). Vegetables and fruit offer endless amounts of nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C and A, which contribute to a healthy immune system.
- Add red peppers, broccoli or strawberries to your salads
- Include sweet potatoes, leafy greens or carrots in your next dinner
Scrub, Scrub, Scrub
One of your best bets for fighting off the cold is good personal hygiene (2). Wash your hands well several times a day and use disinfectant on surfaces you touch regularly.
Choose Vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of proteins in your body, which work to destroy invading germs and viruses (3). You can make vitamin D naturally through skin exposure to sunlight. However, through the winter months, I don’t think anyone will be walking around in shorts and a t-shirt! This makes it an especially important time of year to meet your Vitamin D needs. Food sources include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, milk and non-dairy beverages that are fortified with vitamin D.
Health Canada recommends adults over the age of 50 take a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement.
Don’t Forget the Protein!
Protein has many roles in the human body, including supporting your immune system (4). Choose fish, poultry, beans, lentils, Greek yogurt, eggs, milk, nuts and seeds as your daily protein sources.
Get Enough Z’s
Lack of sleep may lead to a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to catching a virus. Rest up!
Choose Whole Food over Supplements
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, dairy, nuts, seeds, fish and poultry offer essential nutrients and antioxidants your immune system needs to function properly. When it comes to supplements, be cautious! Getting too much of a vitamin or mineral from supplements can be detrimental (1). For example, zinc is an important nutrient for a healthy immune system, however, when taken in large doses, it can suppress the immune system. Choose natural sources of zinc such as beans, lentils, wheat germ, meat, seafood and dairy products.
By enjoying a whole foods diet, your immune system will stay healthy over the cold winter months to come!
Here’s to living the grounded life,
Written in collaboration with Sara Hanifi, nutrition student volunteer