Cold and flu season is upon us. While you don’t have full control over the germs your kid brings home from school or the stranger who sneezes beside you on the subway, you do have control over how you prepare your body and immune system this season.
A robust immune system is essential for optimal vitality, dodging the dreaded flu, and avoiding other pathogens lurking around. For this reason, we created a quick 3-tier immune support guide you can use over the next few months to give yourself the best shot at keeping germs at bay.
Tier 1: Essential Immune Defense
A diet high in all of your micronutrients is essential. The key nutrients that have a powerful effect on the immune system and fighting infection are listed below. Challenge yourself to include a few of these foods into your meals and snacks each day.
- Vitamin A
- Sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and squash
- Vitamin C
- Sources: Citrus fruit and leafy greens
- Vitamin D
- Sources: Fatty fish and fortified foods such as cereals, orange juice, and milk
- Vitamin E
- Sources: Broccoli, spinach, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
- Sources: Shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts, and potatoes
- Sources: Garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, brazil nuts, and barley
- Sources: Meat, shellfish, and legumes
Tier 2: Specialty Immune Defense
Choosing healthful foods is the first priority as they provide a wide range of nutrients and numerous benefits aside from just immune support. Additionally, there are specific compounds and supplements that can be a second line of immune defense.
Reduces the length and severity of cold symptoms and supports immune health
Ways to incorporate: Supplement in pill or syrup form
Increases the body’s antioxidant capacity and decreases inflammation
Ways to incorporate: Supplement or add the ground form to drinks or food for an extra kick
Reduces psychological and physiological stress responses
Ways to incorporate: Supplement or enjoy black and green teas
Tier 3: Added Support
Taking care of your body is not just about what you put in your mouth. Your immune system is best supported when your body as a whole is best supported. This means managing your stress and prioritizing your sleep, among others.
The flu vaccination can help reduce the likelihood of getting the flu or reduce the time spent having the flu.
Hot showers and steam can help reduce chest congestion and can clear stuffy nasal passages.
There are so many benefits of simply going on a walk —even during colder weather. Increased stress can decrease immune response so it’s a good opportunity to clear your mind. Absorb some vitamin D from the sun while getting your exercise in. Lastly, the more cooped up you are, the higher the chance you’ll catch that cold going around.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night as inadequate sleep impairs your immune response.
Bonus: The Ultimate Immune Defense Day
Now, put all of your efforts together to holistically support your body and kick cold and flu season to the curb! Here’s an example of what that could look like.
- Start your day by taking an elderberry supplement with a tall glass of water.
- Whip up a 10-Minute Turmeric Golden Milk Recipe to enjoy while you’re getting ready for the day.
- For breakfast, make some Caramelized Banana & Toasted Sunflower Seed Toast with a glass of fortified orange juice. This meal is high in copper, vitamin E, zinc, and vitamin D.
- For lunch, cozy up with a Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad packed with vitamins A and C.
- After lunch, bundle up and go on a long walk through a local trail to get some exercise, vitamin D, and fresh air.
- Make a simple dinner tonight. Sheet Pan Dinner: Maple-Glazed Salmon with Sweet Potatoes is loaded with selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
- Wind down with a long, hot shower.
- End your evening with a cup of decaffeinated green tea for your daily dose of L-theanine.
- Last but not least, head to bed early for a full 7-9 hours of sleep.
- Akazawa, N., Choi, Y., Miyaki, A., Tanabe, Y., Sugawara, J., Ajisaka, R., & Maeda, S. (2012). Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women. Nutrition Research, 32(10), 795–799. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2012.09.002
- Kong, F.-K. (2009). Pilot Clinical Study on a Proprietary Elderberry Extract: Efficacy in Addressing Influenza Symptoms (Vol. 5). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/367d/1c92716b6be462f26dbfe6c223863dc78464.pdf
- Kimura, K. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological Psychology 74 (2007) 39–45