In October and early November, we begin to look forward to the cheery Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hannukah/New Year’s season. But we always seem to tend to forget the stress that often comes with this time of year.
Work projects need to be wrapped up, and the new year’s work needs to be planned and budgeted. Speaking of budgets, our bills tend to go up (cable, taxes, insurance). We tend to indulge in bad foods (fast foods because its cheaper and quicker, and junk foods available at all the parties). And then there’s the gift shopping! Some families have personal issues (politics, anyone?), and that adds stress.
And all this stress – mental, physical and emotional – compromises normally healthy immune function.
New Year’s is also the time for goal-setting (also called “resolutions”) and the typical top goal is “getting healthier” which often encompasses losing weight and developing healthier habits in general.
If your immune system isn’t quite up to par, it will be more difficult to stick to a new routine featuring healthier (calorie-restricted) diet and exercise. So, ensure you include the following natural foods from your supermarket’s or farmer’s market’s produce department.
Key nutrients you want to flood your body with include vitamin C and zinc, as well as other antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin E.
Not only are these fruits refreshing, and their juices truly thirst-quenching, they are all very abundant with vitamin C, which some research has shown to help ensure healthy production of white blood cells, necessary to help stave off infection and fight it when it does occur.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are not only versatile and delicious they contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. IN addition, they contain a decent amount of beta carotene, which works in concert with vitamin C to support immune function.
Although famously disliked by former POTUS George HW Bush, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable enjoyed by many, and it is packed with vitamins minerals and a carotenoid, sulforaphane, that works in the colon to maintain digestive health. This is related to immune support, as immunity is supported by the probiotic communities in the colon and lower GI. Broccoli also is high in vitamins A, C and E.
Garlic is a powerful health-promoting bulb. Several studies have shown that ingesting garlic regularly can reduce cold duration as well as reduce risk of developing a cold. One placebo-controlled study showed that those taking garlic had an approximately 60% lower risk of getting a cold. This immune-support property is attributed to its active phytochemical, allicin.
The cartoon character Popeye loved his spinach for strength – but science shows that it also adds strength to immune function via its high content of vitamin C. And like red bell peppers, spinach also contains viable amounts of beta carotene, useful in the body’s fight against mild immune assaults.
This protein-packed nut is not only great for a healthy diet as a snack, its nutrient content is favorable for the immune system. Its vitamin E content helps promote healthy immune response; and only one-half cup of these delicious nuts provide your body with nearly 100% of the recommended DV.
There is something so soothing on frigid days about sipping tea – so make it green tea, and your immune system will be a happy one. Green tea’s epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to neutralize free radicals, which can impede immunity, especially in times of stress. Note that the fermentation process that makes black tea destroys EGCG, so only green tea has this benefit. Additionally, green tea also has L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to help produce certain compounds in T-cells that help destroy germs.
Zinc is the star element in many shellfish varieties – specifically clams, crab, mussels and lobster. In fact, zinc is a key ingredient in many OTC winter-support remedies; some studies have shown that zinc lozenges helped reduce cold duration. WebMD recommends taking zinc with food as it can cause some discomfort – which is why obtaining it in seafood is such a great (and delicious) idea!