By Riham Shamseddine
It is that time of the year, and an adequate and healthy nutrition is very essential to build a strong immune system to fight and/or prevent seasonal illnesses such as cold and flu. Thus, correct nutrition is very important.
In order to maintain a healthy and strong well-being, one should eat a balanced and varied diet. It is very important to include proteins and foods that are rich in antioxidants as follows:
Eat a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
This vitamin is essential for the regulation and protection of the immune system from infections. This immune-boosting vitamin in the form of beta-carotene is found in orange-red fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches, apricots, red bell peppers. It is also present in a good amount in spinach, kale, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and fortified foods.
This vitamin is also essential and works as an antioxidant that mostly fights free radicals that are the main cause of illnesses. Vitamin E is present in nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, walnuts and almonds, in vegetable oils, in peanut butter and in fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin C boosts the immune system and it helps in the formation of antibodies to fight illnesses. Vitamin C is present in citrus fruits such as lemon, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, in papaya, and in vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Include more of the above as part of the 5 a day (5 servings of fruits and vegetables)
This mineral boosts the immune system and helps it to work efficiently. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk and dairy products, whole grain products, beans and nuts.
Also, other nutrients, like vitamin B6, folic acid and Iron, as well as prebiotics (found in onions, garlic, artichokes and leeks) and probiotics (microorganisms found naturally in yogurt and soy milk) might help in the fight against flu and cold. Also, in order to boost the immune system, one should exercise regularly.
Exercise increases the heart rate and helps the heart pump larger quantities of blood and transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood. Physical activity helps increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells. Always consult with your physician prior to starting any exercise routine.
Last but not least, in addition to proper nutrition and exercise, one should drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and decrease stress levels in order to increase the immune system and minimize the risk of getting sick.