Nutrition – preventing winter colds

Posted on 29 April 2014

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

Beat the winter with lots of vitamin C - photo courtesy of Willie Cloete at Stock.XchngWinter is near and many of us are more likely to experience flus and colds. A strong immune system can protect us from falling victim to various minor ailments, including flus and colds.

As more of our friends and family succumb to aches, fevers, snotty noses, sore throats and chesty coughs; it is time to boost our immunity! To do this there are some points we can focus on.

  1. Try minimising stressful situations, ideally by implementing stress management techniques. We can’t avoid stress. What may be a stress for your friend may not even be a stress for you. What each of us considers as a stress varies in degrees. The best policy is to know how to manage the many mini-crises we are challenged with. That involves patience, knowing when to say no, learning to delegate tasks and most of all giving yourself some time to just relax. Remember that stress decreases your immunity!
  2. Eat more citrus fruits or green, yellow and red peppers for higher vitamin C content. Vitamin C has been long established as enhancing white blood cell numbers and overall function in our bodies. As the white blood cells are your army against viruses and bacteria, it’s worth strengthening your defences.
  3. Horde those nuts! Nuts have high levels of minerals. Minerals intake in balanced amounts are vital for a healthy functioning immune system. Besides being mainly composed of healthy fats, nuts also contain the immune strengthening fat-soluble vitamin E.
  4. Drink sufficient amounts of water. Water is excellent in supporting detoxification as it helps flush out toxins through the kidneys into urine. Be balanced in your water intake; excessive amounts can actually damage your kidneys as it is a strain to filter excessive amounts of fluid.
  5. Dress sensibly. So many of us are more fashion conscious than caring about well-being. Being under-dressed in cold weather causes us to feel more chills. As our body tries to keep us warm, it closes up our skin pores. The skin is an important route for toxin excretion through sweat, mostly in sweat that is not even noticeable. When the skin route of elimination is closed, our body directs more toxins to our other sites of elimination. This may include your nose and chest (these parts of your body then become weaker and are more vulnerable to viral attacks). So keep your skin reasonably warm and not in a tight and goose bump state!
  6. Laugh and smile! Being happy is known to enhance so many body functions and raise vitality. A raised and optimistic vitality and outlook on life is more resistant to succumbing to flus and colds. This is because a happier state of mind tends to correlate to a stronger immune defence. Yes, cold weather is gloomy but there is always something to make up for it. For outdoor people, there are still winter orientated sports to participate in. Enjoy the simple things in life. Find happiness in the winter season by enjoying warm bowls of nourishing soup or warm cups of beverages while knowing we are blessed to have well-structured homes in weather like this!
  7. Avoid excessive sugar intakes. Sugar in high amounts is known to not be supportive to immune function. In cold weather it is easier to seek out comfort foods, and often comfort foods may be high in sugar content. Instead of the sugary treat, rather opt for some warm home-made soups. In cold weather, being in the kitchen over a hot pot of food is far more comforting than on summer days. Enjoy your cooking times in winter!
  8. Take a supplement designed to boost the immune system. Due to our modern lifestyle, we have greater needs for nutrients than may be adequately provided by a typical modern day diet. As the market is well stocked with supplements, focus on reputable brands to source your supplements. Do not rely on supplements to replace a poor nutrition diet as the diet itself is most powerful. Only use supplements to support your diet.
  9. Incorporate more herbs in food preparation. Herbs are nourishing and there are so many different varieties and flavours among the range of culinary herbs. Since ancient times, people have utilised herbs to enhance nutrient intakes and support well-being. Herbs also have effective therapeutic properties and should always be seen and used from a ‘kitchen medicine’ perspective.
  10. When possible, try avoiding places which are crowded with people. We are more likely to catch a cold or flu virus from close contact with someone else who is ill. When we already have a weakened immune system, due to any number of reasons, and then come into contact with someone who is ill, we are likely to fall ill too. Basically in crowded areas we have less chance to move away or not be too close to someone else who is ill. This is one of the reasons that schools and large enclosed work areas act like breeding grounds for colds and flus. Everyone seems to keep infecting each other.

Do take time this season to care for your well-being; you are worth it! Being sick and taking time off from work or school can often just cause more stress. Rather try being pro-active and avoiding the usual flu and cold rounds, if possible. This saves us costs in medicines and taking time off work.

Take care, Anastacia

For more tipe on vegan nutrition, visit Vegan SA.


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