With winter comes the onset of cold and flu season in addition to other events that can wreak havoc on our immune system. In order to boost our immune systems, we need to make some minor adjustments in our diet and lifestyle to help curb the impact the season has on our body. Try these small adjustments to keep yourself healthy this winter.
Adjustment 1: Get your Essential Fatty Acids
Because essential fatty acids are the key to building super hormones, make sure that you get enough of these fatty acids from nuts, seeds, fish, cold pressed oils and supplements.
According to MSNBC.com fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, herring and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase activity of phagocytes — cells that fight flu by eating up bacteria — according to a study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine. They also contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, proteins that help clear viruses. Other research shows that omega-3s increase airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections. In fact, says Somer, DHA and EPA (the two main forms of omega-3s) benefit the immune system at the most basic level, enabling cell membranes to efficiently absorb nutrients and remove toxins.
Adjustment 2: Eat Enough Protein
Protein is important for your optimal health no matter what season it is. Nutritionists also suggest .75 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of your body weight depending upon your physical activity. But, because our body can only absorb 30 to 35 grams per meal, we need to spread our protein intake throughout the day. Be sure to eat some sort of protein in every meal and in every snack. Getting some of that protein through soy-based products is also recommended by many nutritionists.
Adjustment 3: Choose low GI carbohydrates
GI or glycemic index, is the measure of how fast blood sugar rises after eating. One good example is that white sugar has a glycemic index of 100, where peanuts have a glycemic index of 15. That means that peanuts raise the blood sugar levels at 15% of the rate of white sugar. Fast rising blood sugar means the pancreas produces and sometimes overproduces insulin. These spikes in insulin can weaken the immune system and interferes with the production of super hormones. By choosing low GI carbohydrates, combined with eating the appropriate levels of protein you can better control your insulin.
Adjustment 4: Nutritional supplements are not an option
Instead of boosting their immune system by eating the right foods, exercising and avoiding stress, too many people turn to herbal remedies to prevent colds and the flu. However, these people believe that using herbal remedies, like Echinacea, will stimulate their immune system and often utilize these remedies rather than eating the right foods. Echinacea can and will stimulate the immune system, but if you aren’t feeding the immune system with the proper vitamins and nutrients, the effectiveness of the herbal remedy will not be as long-lasting as you expect.
Overall, the best way to adjust your immune system this winter is to avoid too much supplementation, get enough protein and essential fatty acids, and avoid those sugary carbohydrates to make your way through these next couple months illness-free.