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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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