Weight loss

6 meals for a stronger immune system

We have received all recommendations from the Center of Disease Control (CDC): wash your hands, do not share food or drink, and do not touch your face.

But did you know that what you put on your plate also matters? That's right: when it comes to colds and flu, eating can really be your secret weapon.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following nutrients to strengthen the immune system: protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. Including sufficient amounts of healthy fats and proteins can also help prevent colds.

To make navigating your immune-boosting diet easier, we've listed six foods you need to replenish this winter to make sure you get important nutrients for the common cold:

1. Eggs
Eggs are nutritional power plants that can be easily integrated into your everyday life. They are full of protein and protein is critical to the formation of antibodies against bacteria and viruses, says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

And it doesn't stop here. Eggs are one of the few sources of food for vitamin D. Studies have shown that vitamin D benefits your immune system, muscle function, heart health, brain development and mood.

Boil a dozen eggs hard on Sunday. Put them in your pocket for a quick snack in the morning or cut them on your afternoon salad. A big egg counts as a PowerFuel for those who follow the Nutrisystem program.

The easy way to separate an egg

2. Citrus
Citrus fruits contain one of the most famous antioxidants, vitamin C. Vitamin C protects you from infections by increasing antibodies and strengthening immunity. Studies have not confirmed that vitamin C prevents colds, but recent research suggests that the use of vitamin C can reduce duration and severity.

Consume whole versions of citrus to limit added sugar (think of oranges instead of orange juice). The whole fruit contains a lot of fiber, with which you feel full for longer.

The options are colorful and fruitful. Two medium sized kiwi or tangerines, a medium orange or a cup of papaya or pineapple are wonderful options for those participating in the Nutrisystem program. Everyone counts as a SmartCarb; nutrient-rich with a low to medium value for the glycemic index.

3. Yogurt
Listen to your stomach It can be the key to avoid runny nose and fever when the snow rolls in. Your gut contains both good and bad bacteria and is responsible for more than just digestion. It makes up 50 percent of the body's immune response. The good bacteria strengthen immunity and reduce the duration of the cold. This way you stay healthier and in fighting form when this cold knocks on your door.

Choosing yogurt with live and active cultures promotes gut health with its strong probiotics. Greek yogurt also works well, adding extra protein that keeps you fuller and longer. Choose plain yogurt and add fresh fruit to limit the added sugar. A cup of fat-free yogurt counts as a fuel in the Nutrisystem program.

Yogurt: Greek, Icelandic, Aussie … What's the difference?

4. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds may be small, but they are powerful. You pack a double punch with vitamin E and zinc. Vitamin E fights the dirty free radicals in your body that weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds and flu.

Zinc is rarely mentioned, but it is very important for your health. Zinc has the ability to act as an antioxidant and also prevents free radicals from harming the cells. In 2013, researchers found that zinc protects the immune system from excessive inflammation. This gives us an insight into why zinc reduces the severity and duration of our colds.

Zinc is often found in over-the-counter lozenges, but it's best to consume zinc in its food form. Too much zinc can be harmful to health. So don't overdo it. Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN and LDN of Rust Nutrition recommend adding sunflower seeds to salads or rice dishes to promote both zinc and vitamin E.

5. Sweet potatoes
The delicious orange potato has grown in popularity over the years. Sweet potato mash, fries, fries and pasta appear in recipes and on menus.

This is good news for the cold and flu season as these little sweets are full of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps fight infection. A medium-sized sweet potato offers more than the daily recommendation for vitamin A.

It is no surprise that most germs enter your body through your eyes, nose and throat. Vitamin A helps to keep these mucous membranes open and healthy and helps in the fight against the cold season. Since most vitamins are multifunctional, vitamin A not only prevents germs from entering your body, but also increases your body's immune response when it does.

Half a cup serving counts as a SmartCarb in the Nutrisystem program.

How to make delicious sweet potato fries

6. Tea
As early as 2003, studies confirmed the immune-boosting effects of tea. Researchers believe that tea can fight infections by preparing the immune system for possible attacks.

A 2011 study published by BMC Complimentary & Alternative Medicine found that green tea prevented healthcare workers from getting the flu. The magic ingredient? Catechins, antioxidants from green tea. As an added bonus, catechins have been shown to fight prostate, colon and breast cancer.

Chamomile tea is considered an immune-strengthening herbal tea. The Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry published a study in 2005 that indicated that chamomile tea increases antibacterial activity when participants consume five cups a day.

Unsweetened is a free food for those participating in the Nutrisystem program. Add some flavor with squeezed lemon, peach, mint, or ginger for a warm treat. Caffeine sensitive? Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free.

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