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Fight Off Winter Colds with Foods that Boost Your Immune System

Fight Off Winter Colds with Foods that Boost Your Immune System

If there’s one thing that can be counted on during the winter months, it’s the ubiquitous seasonal cold. No matter where you go, chances are you’ll come across several people who are coughing, sneezing, snuffling, and wheezing unpleasantly, with the sore red noses and bleary eyes characteristic of a (very contagious) affliction that’s sure to drag on for weeks. Unless you plan to seal yourself into a bubble until spring, you’re very likely to come into contact with some of these people over the next few months, and you’ll undoubtedly end up with their cold or flu germs fluttering around you.

Aside from wearing a hazmat suit every time you leave the house, there are some steps you can take to fend off the winter plague. Washing your hands often, using hand sanitizers after being on public transit, and keeping distance from sickly co-workers are a few examples, and you can give your immune system a solid boost via the food that you eat. Every single bite we take has an impact on our health, so take special care to fill yourself up with foods that will help, not hinder, the healing process:

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Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Strawberries, raw tomatoes, citrus fruits, red peppers, and broccoli are all packed with Vitamin C, which makes your white blood cells more active with infection-fighting dance party moves.

Garlic

Laden with antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties, garlic has been hailed for its healing properties for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used it as medicine, and it was used to treat gangrene in both world wars. Unfortunately, this powerfully pungent plant is most potent and effective when it’s raw, as many of the compounds are broken down or destroyed during the cooking process. If you’re hesitant to chow down on raw garlic cloves, consider blending a few into a pesto with fresh herbs and olive oil, and stirring that into room-temperature soup: that way, the garlic will retain its health benefits, but be slightly more palatable. You’ll still have dragon breath, though.

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Honey

Honey soothes sore throats, and has antimicrobial properties that help fight off infections. Buckwheat and alfalfa honey have higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients (especially if it’s organic), and taking a spoonful every day will power-up your immune system with its numerous live enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Note: don’t give honey to children under 2 years of age, as they can develop infant botulism from spores that the honey might be contaminated with.

Zinc-Laden Foods

Zinc helps your body fight off infection, and speeds the healing of wounds and inflammations. This zippy-sounding mineral can be found in red meat and poultry, and is also present in seafood, whole grains, nuts, beans, and dairy products. Some cereals and non-dairy milks are fortified with zinc, but it’s best to get in its natural form.

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Ginger

This gnarly little root has both antiviral and antibiotic properties, and is rich in vitamin and minerals. It helps to inhibit bacterial growth, is a powerful antioxidant, and is super-effective at killing off the common cold virus. If you’re already sick, ginger will help to lower your fever and calm chills, and it’s also a very mild pain reliever. To make ginger tea, grate an inch or so into a few cups of boiling water, and simmer for a few minutes over low heat. You can also juice ginger raw for maximum effect: put a 1-inch slice of ginger through your juicer along with 2 peeled apples, 1 peeled beet, and 2 carrots, and then add a dash of cayenne pepper for good measure for an immune-boosting power drink.

Live “Good” Bacteria

The live active cultures in yoghurt and kefir increase your intestinal flora (Lactobacillus reuteri! say that three times fast!) which help to block the replication of viruses in the body. These are the only kinds of dairy products that should be consumed when you’re ill, though: see the last paragraph of this piece for info on why.

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Tea

Green and black tea are packed with antioxidant flavonoids that help repair cellular damage when you’re still healthy, while herbal tea like peppermint or ginger soothe queasy bellies if you’re feeling under the weather. Tea helps to replenish your body’s fluids, and most importantly, it’s really soothing and comforting. Both soup and tea are like warming internal hugs when you’re feeling sickly, so be sure to quaff plenty of it if you feel the lurgy coming on.

If you’ve already come down with something nasty, the foods listed above can help you to get over your illness more quickly, and will hopefully be comforting and delicious as well. There are also some edibles that are best avoided if you’d like a speedy recovery: avoid dairy products, which can thicken mucus and phlegm, and stay away from sugar—it makes your illness-fighting white blood cells sluggish, thus acting as an immune system suppressant. Be sure to get plenty of rest, cut down on junk food in favour of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and lean proteins, and you’re certain to fight off any cold you encounter.

Featured photo credit:  Winter woman in snow looking at camera via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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