During the winter brings a lot of festivities and fun, it also tends to be the time we see an increase in the common cold. From spending more time indoors to a greater exposure to unknown germs to travel, the winter months are an important time to your defense against infections.
With the Hand washing, flu and pneumonia shots, and sufficient rest are the key to protecting yourself against diseases—and, why not, your food defense?
Read on for some foods to start eating today to keep your immune system in top condition.
Oily Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the immune system, and a way to tax these hard-to-find nutrient is oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, fish contains protein, vitamin B-6 and iron — important nutrients to keep you healthy. To assist in achieving the recommended 2 to 3 servings of fish per week for good health, stock up on cans of oily fish – just one serving of Bumble Bee Omega-3 albacore tuna contains 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fortified Milk: Usually, the last thing you want to do when you have a cold is something milk-based, but the creation of enhanced milk (such as cow’s milk, soy, milk, rice and milk enriched with vitamin D) part of your diet could help to keep away from colds in the first place. A 2017 study published in the journal Antiviral Research looked bronchial epithelial cells — an important protective cell in your airways — and found that vitamin D increases the ability to defend themselves against the attacks of viruses. Other foods that are rich in vitamin D are oily fish, egg yolks, vitamin D enriched orange juice, vitamin D fortified cereals and vitamin D fortified yogurt.
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Pumpkin Seeds: A nutritional powerhouse wrapped in a small package, pumpkin seeds provide important nutrients such as magnesium, protein and zinc. While there is still some debate about what role zinc plays in the immune response against colds, there is some agreement is that it is more effective when available at the beginning of the disease. A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds (about a handful) provides 19% of the recommended daily requirement for zinc. Try adding pumpkin seeds to your cereal in the morning, sprinkle some on your salad, or eat them for a snack.
Citrus fruit: It is a happy coincidence that citrus fruits are at their best when they are needed the most: in the winter months. An excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, consider adding some tangerines or grapefruit to your daily snack rotation-a medium Halo has only 50 calories and has 45 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. it is Naturally sweet and juicy, Halos are also a great snack option for children, because they are easy to handle and fit in their small hands. Since hydration is the key to keeping your immune system strong, try adding lemons or limes to your water to stimulate taste and vitamin C, or add a splash of 100% orange juice to your flat or sparkling water.
Germ-busting Greens: Most of us think of carrots when we think of beta-carotene, but the chlorophyll are also an excellent source of the antioxidant. Beta-carotene (an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body) plays an important role in the immune system, and loading up on seasonal greens, such as kale, collards, and mustard greens is a great way to take advantage of winter produce that can help to keep the common cold at bay. Other top choices for beta-carotene are orange colored produce such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and melon.
Honey: For thousands of years, honey is known across cultures for its impressive medicinal properties. Modern science continues to find evidence to back up these claims, and it turns out that honey may be useful in fighting bacteria, both inside and outside the body. Use some honey in the morning to sweeten your yogurt, or try stirring in a cup of tea when you feel that telltale scratchiness in the back of your throat. Since honey is also high in sugar (one tablespoon provides 17 grams), it’s best in small quantities.
Disclosure: Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN works with a Wreath to help people have healthy snack choices.
Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the author of “to Eat When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No Cook Food Fixes.” Fofollow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterestand LinkedIn.