Send a Message to Your Winter Cold – Eat This!

While scientists cannot agree as to why winter is the cold and flu season, for many people the cold months are a time to take extra precautions against sickness.  Though we can’t crack the code on why more of us fight colds and flu during the cold winter months, researchers suspect it has something to do with the closer proximity we all share to each other while stuck indoors either back to school or simply because it’s too cold outside.  Even in the warmer climates in the United States, winter finds more windows closed, keeping those germs nice and snug inside your home.

Humidity may also play a role. Some cold-causing viruses actually survive better in the lower humidity of winter.  And all that drier weather may cause the mucus membranes of the nose, which provide protection against germs, to be less effective. 

Spending more time in enclosed spaces during winter allows germs to be passed more easily from person to person.  Scientists are sure to crack the common cold mystery someday but until then, there is good evidence that boosting your immune system through the foods you eat is a great way to increase your odds of staying healthy. 

Cold-Fighting Foods

It may seem like common sense to many, but it’s worth repeating: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can improve your overall health.  Along with this overall improvement you can provide a boost specifically to the immune system.

Researchers have found several nutrients which contribute to our overall immune system health and can help our bodies to defend against infections.  Some, like vitamin C and zinc, are thought to work best if taken before, or at first sign of, the onset of flu or cold-like symptoms.  Other nutrients such as selenium and B-vitamins have been found to contribute to an overall healthy immune response to a variety of pathogens.

Here are some common foods which have been linked to a healthy immune system response.  Loading up on these, especially during the cold winter months, may just keep you healthy.

Citrus Fruits
Many studies have been conducted on the benefit of vitamin C on the effects of the common cold with no scientific consensus. Lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruits, all high in levels of vitamin C, are no doubt beneficial for the immune system as a whole but may have added benefit when consumed as soon as cold symptoms appear.  Scientists may not agree but with no harmful effects from consuming high-levels of the vitamin, some swear by the use of vitamin C before or during a cold. 

Orange, Red and Yellow Veggies

These vegetables provide carotenoids, the precursors which help your body to produce vitamin A.  Foods high in carotenoids are generally orange, red or yellow in color such as pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and red bell peppers.  Not only can carotenoid-rich foods help boost your immune system, they also provide a great defense against other diseases such as some forms of cancer.

Mushrooms
Scientists have been studying mushrooms as a source for boosting the immune system so it can better handle a germ assault.  In a study at Arizona State University, even white button mushrooms have shown an ability to provide an increased immune system response. With high levels of vitamins B and C, as well as zinc, mushrooms should be considered a part of your healthy diet.

Broccoli

Another great source of immune-boosting nutrients is broccoli.  Brussel sprouts, cabbage and the currently popular kale, are all excellent sources of vitamins A, C and E.  Eating just one serving a day can help to fend off those nasty germs should you be unknowingly exposed.

Garlic
Garlic has been touted for its health benefits for centuries. Not only will it save you from vampires, it has been used as an antibiotic and cold-fighter.  Garlic contains chemicals which react in the body to help cells create hydrogen sulfide, a major antioxidant.  The chemical, called allicin, has been found to fight bacteria such as E. coli and giardia effectively and can be especially useful for fighting chest infections.  So, if you are feeling those initial signs of a chest cold coming on, go Italian for dinner.

Selenium

Selenium is another powerful antioxidant, those helpful proteins which can protect our cells from damage done by free radicals.  Antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals in our bodies which can protect you from certain cancers and heart disease, as well as other infections.  Some common sources of selenium are salmon, mushrooms, wheat germ and meat.

Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is a great source of selenium but is also rich in zinc. Zinc is a mineral which helps the body produce those infection-fighting white blood cells known as T-cells.  Zinc also plays a role in keeping our skin and mucus membranes healthy, our first line of defense against germs.

Defend Instead of Attack

Attackers may have the advantage in war but in common-cold-fighting a strong defense is the best medicine.  By eating healthy foods and targeting those that boost the immune system you can help protect against all those infection causing germs. 

If you do catch a cold, you’ll probably want to attack your symptoms with any number of un-natural weapons such as, antibiotics, decongestants and suppressants. However, focusing on defense can help keep you healthy during the cold and flu season by giving your immune system a natural boost.


About the Author

Wendy Brunner is a writer, mother and web developer who looks for ways to fend off the common cold in Fountain Hills, Arizona. When she does buy vitamins she always tries to use GNC coupons from Save1.com. You can find her on Google+. or visit her online at her website:www.wendybrunner.com

Resources for this article:

http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/commoncold/Pages/default.aspx
http://www.webmd.com/diet/video/mushrooms-boost-immunity