You know the telltale signs, that scratchy throat, increase fatigue or congestion that tells you that a cold is coming; a week of general chumminess feels inevitable. But being who I am I always look for ways to beat the odds with healthy eating. You can take charge and circumvent, or at lease reduce the length and strength of that cold. The secret is to boost your immune system. Seriously boost it – quickly!
Immunity boosting benefits of Vitamin A: the medical field has known that Vitamin A is one of the best immune system boosters around. Vitamin A is so powerful that it has been credited with significantly protecting against some of the immune-suppressing effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
How does Vitamin A stimulate the immune system? Possibly by promoting the growth of the thymus gland, enhancing the function of the white blood cells, and having anti-viral activity. It also supports the function of the epithelial and mucosal tissues found in the lungs and GI tract – your immune systems first line of defense.
The best way to get your Vitamin A is through food sources. Beta-carotene turns into Vitamin A, so look for fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, like cantaloupe. A single cup of cantaloupe contains about 3000 mcg of it. Lightly cooking certain vegetables actually improves the availability of carotenoids. Canned tomatoes, and lightly steamed carrots and spinach are a good option. Also high in carotenoids are sweet potatoes, squash, and apricots. An easy way to get these foods in your diet when you feel a cold coming on is in soup. Don’t forget dark leafy greens, especially spinach, kale and collard greens, which are high in beta- carotene.
Vitamin A is fat soluble, and zinc is also required in order to properly absorb and utilize Vitamin A. So make sure you have some healthy fats in your diet, and consider supplementing with zinc (also shown to shorten the length of a cold). Try eating a spinach salad with a lemon and olive oil salad dressing, or a smoothie made with coconut oil, to ensure you are getting the full benefits.
Cold season is hard to avoid, but by boosting your immune system you might avoid it, or at least reduce the impact on your overall health. You might be asking why this information now? I want you to be informed early so that you will stay healthy year round.
So what healthy foods do you reach for when you feel a cold coming on?
Sources: US Department of Health and Human Services. A healthier you based on the dietary guidelines for Americans.
For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.