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The cold and flu season will be upon us soon, so now is the best time to look at ways to boost your immune system. By building up resistance, your body will be better prepared to defend itself against the winter bugs.
Here are some tips to help you prepare:
An overall healthy diet will boost your immune system, but the following foods are rich in anti-oxidants and are essential in fighting against various viral infections. Presence of antioxidants in the body ensures long term health benefits.
Spinach is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Broccoli – High in Vitamins A and C
Broccoli is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron and Selenium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese.
Garlic – High in minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium
Garlic stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white blood cells and also contains the phytochemical allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties.
Garlic is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Calcium, Phosphorus and Selenium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese.
Blueberries – Packed with Vitamins C and E, and disease-fighting antioxidants
Blueberries are a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Blueberries are also strong sources of dietary fiber. Each half cup serving of blueberries provides a full two grams of dietary fiber, which is as much as in one slice of whole wheat bread.
Blueberries are among the richest sources of antioxidants and other important nutrients. Blueberries are also delicious, versatile, high in fiber, and low in calories.
The health benefits associated with blueberries include improved eyesight, stronger blood vessels, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of urinary tract infections, better memory performance, and promoting and maintaining a healthy weight.
High in soluble fibre, which absorbs cholesterol and helps establish a healthy environment in your digestive tract.
Drink six to eight glasses a day to stay well hydrated.
Water keeps the susceptible mucus membranes in your upper respiratory tract moist and resistant to infection.
The omega-3 fats in cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna, create high blood levels of flu-fighting T cells and interferon.
Pumpkin – High in Carotenoids, Vitamin A and B-Group Vitamins
Pumpkins are a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Pumpkins are high in beta carotene, vitamin A and other carotenoids that are powerful antioxidants. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated oils.
To make sure your immune system has all it needs to fight off flu and colds, top it up with the necessary supplements. Following are some of the most potent flu-fighting nutrients:
|Supplement||with flu-fighting properties|
|Vitamin C||Well known for its immune-boosting properties, it increases the production of disease-fighting white blood cells and antibodies.|
|Vitamin E||High in antioxidants, vitamin E helps the immune cells produce antibodies and can help reverse some of the decline in immune function that comes with ageing.|
|Echinacea||Echinacea boosts your immune system, helping prevent and treat invasive viruses.|
|Carotene||The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which has antioxidant and immune-boosting functions, such as the production of infection-fighting cells.|
|Cod liver oil||A rich, natural source of flu-fighting nutrients, including vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids.|
|Zinc||Increases the number and ability of white blood cells to fight infection.|
|Selenium||An essential mineral for immune function, selenium has antioxidant properties that help prevent cellular damage from free radicals.|
There's a link between moderate, regular exercise and a healthy immune system. Exercise temporarily increases the circulation of antibodies called macrophages—the cells that attack bacteria. Additionally, it elevates core body temperature, which boosts your body's ability to fight viruses. There are also indirect benefits, such as reduced stress, improved sleep (unless you exercise vigorously at night) and improved self-confidence through weight management. On the other hand, extended periods of intense training without adequate recovery time can weaken your immune system and increase your susceptibility to illness. It is also wise to cut back or cut out exercise when you are ill. That will give your immune system the best chance to fight an infection without the additional stress of exercise.
Sleep more, stress less
Sleep rejuvenates and revitalises your body, and helps your immune system function at its best. Deep sleep stimulates the thymus gland to produce T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps reject foreign substances, and controls the production of antibodies to fight infection. Sleep also helps your body deal with stress, which has a strong influence on your immune system. Stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol—hormones that reduce your body's ability to produce antibodies. That's why people who are highly stressed get more colds, suffer more digestive tract problems and are more frequent bouts of fatigue. Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and practice relaxation techniques to help prevent stress.
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