By Zannat Reza
With cold and flu season blasting almost every household, you should be doing these five things to help your immune system be at the top of its game.
- Sleep between 6 to 8 hours every night – those zzz’s are key to keeping bugs at bay.
- Keep your stress in check – stress weakens your immune system, no one wants that; try yoga or meditation to keep worries to a minimum.
- Get moving to pump up your immune system – even if the weather is cold, bundle up and go for a walk (or swing by the mall for a power walk, and maybe a power shop!).
- Wash your hands often, especially if you’ve been to public places – wash with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds (helpful hint: hum Happy Birthday twice).
- Eat the right balance of food – I’m a believer in the 80-20 rule; load up on wholesome food 80 per cent of the time (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins), and indulge in luxury calories for the remainder.
While most people can name vitamin C when it comes to warding off colds, there are a slew of other nutrients needed to keep your immune system in tip-top form.
|Immune Boosting Nutrient||Key Food Sources|
|Vitamin A||sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, butternut squash, cantaloupe, liver, soft goat cheese, milk, salmon, egg|
|Vitamin B6||fortified cereals, beans, poultry, fish, and some vegetables and fruits, especially dark leafy greens, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe|
|Vitamin B12||fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals and enriched soy or rice milk, Red Star nutritional yeast|
|Vitamin C||sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, snow peas, Brussels sprouts, kale, tomato, potato, strawberries, kiwi, oranges, papaya, guava, mango, pineapple, pink grapefruit|
|Vitamin D||milk, fortified soy and rice beverages, fortified orange juice, fish like salmon and sardine, egg yolks, fortified yogurts (check the label)|
|Vitamin E||nuts, seeds, avocado, vegetable oils, wheat germ, leafy greens, fish|
|Zinc||lentils, fish, seafood, beef, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, cheese|
|Folate||fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, breakfast cereals, and fortified grains and grain products|
|Selenium||mushrooms, nuts, liver, fish eggs, whole grains, pasta, dairy foods|
Probiotics are good bacteria that have health benefits. Fermented foods offer up these gut-friendly bacteria. Some examples of South Asian fermented foods: chass (buttermilk), dhokla, dosa, idli, lassi, and dahi (yogurt).
Spices such as garlic, ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties. One study showed that those who ate garlic every day for three months had fewer colds.
While these superstar foods contain immune-boosting nutrients, a vitamin D supplement is recommended during the winter months. Our northern environment doesn’t give us enough sun exposure for our bodies to make the sufficient vitamin D. A 1000 IU supplement every day is what’s in order.
Feel free to love these recipes that just so happen to have immune-boosting ingredients:
Gujurati thali with lentils and rice
Vegged up daal
- Tips for Staying Well During Cold and Flu Season, PEN Handout (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition), Dietitians of Canada
- Immune System Background, PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition), Dietitians of Canada
- Your Brain on Nature, Eva Selhub and Alan Logan
- Three of the B vitamins: folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Harvard School of Public Health
- What you need to know about vitamin C, EatRight Ontario
- What you need to know about vitamin A, EatRight Ontario
- What you need to know about vitamin D, EatRight Ontario
- What you need to know about vitamin E, EatRight Ontario
- What you need to know about zinc, EatRight Ontario
- The scoop on selenium, EatRight Ontario
- Food sources of selenium, PEN handout (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition), Dietitians of Canada
- Prebiotics, EatRight Ontario
List of fermented foods, Wikipedia
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