The immune system can always use an extra boost, but that is especially true in the winter months. During the winter, colds and flus typically affect people in higher numbers because people are more likely to stay in enclosed spaces for longer and because viruses thrive in the cold, low-humidity conditions.
Making sure your immune system is up to par when flu season rolls around is crucial to warding off illness and keeping yourself healthy all year round. There are plenty of things you can do to stay on top of your immune function – including eating some immune-boosting winter foods.
What are home remedies to boost your immune system?
There are a few things you can do for your immune system that require little effort and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Getting enough quality sleep is vital to immune health because the less quality sleep a person gets, the more likely their immune system will weaken, leaving them open to illness.
Moderate exercise is also a great way to help improve the functionality of the immune system. Research has shown that people who engage in moderate exercise regularly, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, light hiking, and biking, show an improvement in the way their immune system functions. The one caveat is that the activity shouldn’t be too intense, as intense bouts of exercise can actually suppress immune function.
Staying hydrated is also a simple way to keep the immune system up to par. Dehydration can cause a variety of ailments such as headaches, mood imbalances, and heart and kidney issues, and when the body is fighting to stay healthy on its own, it has a hard time fighting off pathogens. It’s also worth noting that keeping stress levels down can have a positive effect on immune function. You can reduce stress through relaxation exercises such as meditation or yoga.
What foods boost your immune system when sick?
Diet is the best way to ensure that your immune system is running at its best. If a cold or flu has already taken hold of your body, there are specific foods that can lessen the duration and severity of the illness by boosting your immune function and getting you back to health.
- Broths. Broths are great when you’re sick because they keep you hydrated, are easy to stomach, and contain vital nutrients that the immune system needs to be ready for battle.
- Garlic. Garlic has both antibacterial and antiviral effects, so it’s a great addition to your diet if you’ve caught a cold. It has been shown to help stimulate the immune system.
- Honey. Honey is full of antimicrobial compounds, which give it antibacterial effects. This has led to honey being used to help people ward off illnesses and get over common flus and colds.
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal is bland enough to eat while sick but also packs a punch when it comes to helping you get over that pesky cold. Oats contain beta-glucans, which stimulate the immune response.
- Berries. The immune-boosting effects of berries come from polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.
- Green leafy vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach have vitamin C, beta carotene, and antioxidants. When consumed regularly, they can give the body a better chance at fighting off infection.
- Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C, a vital nutrient for immune health. The vitamin plays a role in the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection. Having more white blood cells will make the immune response stronger.
- Yogurt. Natural yogurt is high in vitamin D, a nutrient that helps regulate the immune system and its response to outside invaders.Vitamin D can also be found in supplement form, and in Vital RX’s Immune Health Subscription Box.
- Bell peppers. Bell peppers have both vitamin C and beta-carotene, two crucial nutrients for optimal immune health.
- Sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are a great immunity booster because they are full of nutrients that help immune function, such as vitamin E, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
- Kiwi. When the body is fighting off an infection, it needs all the nutrients it can get. The kiwifruit is a superfood of sorts and is full of essential nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
- Almonds. The immune system requires vitamin E to do its job; almonds are packed with this nutrient.
- Papaya. Another vitamin C-packed fruit that you can eat while sick is papaya. The fruit also contains a specific digestive enzyme known as papain that lowers inflammation throughout the body.
- Shellfish. Shellfish may not be your first thought when considering immune-boosting foods, but they are a great food to eat when sick. This is because they have a ton of zinc, a mineral that helps immune cells function properly.
This list, although not exhaustive, is a great place to start when thinking about boosting your immune system this winter. The important thing to remember is the vital nutrients that are needed to help ward off infection and keep the immune system running strongly.
Specific nutrients that are vital to immune health include:
- Vitamin C. (Spinach, kale, strawberries)
- Vitamin E. (Nuts, seeds, oils)
- Vitamin A. (Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash)
- Vitamin D. (Salmon, tuna, fortified cereals)
- Folate/Folic acid. (Enriched foods such as pasta, bread, and rice)
- Iron. (Red meat, chicken, turkey, beans, broccoli)
- Selenium. (Seafood, poultry, cottage cheese)
- Zinc. (Baked beans, yogurt, chickpeas)
If the immune system is functioning properly, it becomes a lot harder for pathogens to infiltrate the body. Eating immune-boosting foods all year round is a great way to keep your health up to par, but adding them in when temperatures start to drop can be a great immunity boost in winter.