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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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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on June 20, 2019

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

There’s nothing quite like picking up a guitar and strumming out some chords. Listening to someone playing the guitar can be mesmerising, it can evoke emotion and a good guitar riff can bring out the best of a song. Many guitar players find a soothing, meditative quality to playing, along with the essence of creating music or busting out an acoustic version of their favourite song. But how does playing the guitar affect the brain?

More and more scientific studies have been looking into how people who play the guitar have different brain functions compared to those who don’t. What they found was quite astonishing and backed up what many guitarists may instinctively know deep down.

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Guitar Players’ Brains Can Synchronise

You didn’t read that wrong! Yes, a 2012 study[1] was conducted in Berlin that looked at the brains of guitar players. The researchers took 12 pairs of players and got them to play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned.

During the experiment, they found something extraordinary happening to each pair of participants – their brains were synchronising with each other. So what does this mean? Well, the neural networks found in the areas of the brain associated with social cognition and music production were most activated when the participants were playing their instruments. In other words, their ability to connect with each other while playing music was exceptionally strong.

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Guitar Players Have a Higher Intuition

Intuition is described as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning” and this is exactly what’s happening when two people are playing the guitar together.

The ability to synchronise their brains with each other, stems from this developed intuitive talent indicating that guitar players have a definite spiritual dexterity to them. Not only do their brains synchronise with another player, but they can also even anticipate what is to come before and after a set of chords without consciously knowing. This explains witnessing a certain ‘chemistry’ between players in a band and why many bands include brothers who may have an even stronger connection.

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This phenomenon is actually thought to be down to the way guitarists learn how to play – while many musicians learn through reading sheet music, guitar players learn more from listening to others play and feeling their way through the chords. This also shows guitarists have exceptional improvisational skills[2] and quick thinking.

Guitar Players Use More of Their Creative, Unconscious Brain

The same study carried out a different experiment, this time while solo guitarists were shredding. They found that experienced guitar players were found to deactivate the conscious part of their brain extremely easily meaning they were able to activate the unconscious, creative and less practical way of thinking more efficiently.

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This particular area of the brain – the right temporoparietal junction – typically deactivates with ‘long term goal orientation’ in order to stop distractions to get goals accomplished. This was in contrast to the non-guitarists who were unable to shut off the conscious part of their brain which meant they were consciously thinking more about what they were playing.

This isn’t to say that this unconscious way of playing can’t be learnt. Since the brain’s plasticity allows new connections to be made depending on repeated practice, the guitar player’s brain can be developed over time but it’s something about playing the guitar in particular that allows this magic to happen.

Conclusion

While we all know musicians have very quick and creative brains, it seems guitar players have that extra special something. Call it heightened intuition or even a spiritual element – either way, it’s proven that guitarists are an exceptional breed unto themselves!

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Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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