As we enter a time of year when the weather begins to change to cooler temperatures, it’s important for us to prepare for the onset of cold and flu season. Such illnesses are easily spread through the office, classroom or any public space.
But there are several health tips and foods that can help boost the immune system and combat illness and disease. Here is a list of the most important nutritional and fitness tips to help reduce your risk of infectious diseases.
FOODS TO EAT:
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Examples of foods rich in omega-3 include fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring), walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, olive oil and wheat germ.
Foods rich in zinc: Zinc strengthens the immune system and allows white blood cells to function properly and fight foreign pathogens. Examples of foods rich in zinc include spinach, liver, beef, lamb, oysters, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cocoa, pork, beans and mushrooms.
Foods rich in vitamin C: This vitamin deactivates histamine, an allergen, and reduces the inflammation that causes colds. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes), leafy greens, bell peppers, guava, mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kale, broccoli, berries (raspberries and blackberries), tomatoes, green peas and pomelos.
Foods rich in vitamin E: Vitamin E is packed with powerful antioxidants that help fight respiratory infections. Foods include tofu, cooked spinach, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, avocados, shellfish (oysters), olive oil, wheat germ, broccoli, squash and pumpkin.
Foods rich in vitamin A: Deficiency in this vitamin can increase a viral infection. Foods include sweet potato, carrots, squash, kale, dried apricots, sweet red peppers, tuna and mango.
Yogurt: Yogurt also increases the body’s amount of gamma interferon, which help activate immune cells, and slows the spread of infection.
Sodium: Consume adequate quantities of salt in your diet, since infectious agents thrive in low-sodium environments.
Hydration: Drinking plenty of water is also an important factor because dehydration is a common problem among people with illness. Water also helps flush toxins out of the body, so it is essential to a healthy immune system.
FOODS TO AVOID:
Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugars, white bread, alcohol, fried foods and foods high in saturated fat. These types of foods can reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells, which kill pathogens in the body.
When it comes to fitness, moderation is key! Moderate exercise that includes at least 30 minutes of activity a day can help the immune system fight bacterial and viral infection. However, steer clear of excessive exercise and high intensity workouts, as it can have a negative effect on the immune system function.
A study conducted at Appalachian State University showed that individuals who exercised at a high intensity for 90 minutes were more susceptible to illness within three days following the workout.