Most people often dread the cold, wet winter season not only because of the natural disasters it sometimes brings in tow but also due to the disaster that it can wreak on their health. But fear not; your health need not be as bleak as the weather. Nature may cause the problem, but you must realize that it also has the solutions. An acidic, disease-prone body that is more aggravated by cold weather can only be restored to health through alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables — mother nature’s gifts to help strengthen and heal our frail and sickly bodies.
Alkalizing fruits and vegetables increase your resistance to disease and accelerate the body’s healing processes. Leafy greens are among the most alkalizing vegetables due to their high chlorophyll content. Make it a habit to consume organic greens everyday by eating salads, drinking green smoothies and vegetable juices, or by adding them to raw, blended soups. Among the fruits, lemons and apples are considered highly alkalizing. Apples in particular have been known to lower the incidence of colds due to their antiviral properties. Eat them fresh or make raw, unpasteurized and unsweetened apple juice or smoothie with the use of either a juicer or blender.
The low-down on plant-based sources of vitamins and minerals
Forget about getting your nutrients from synthetic vitamins. Get them from their best sources—fresh and raw fruits and vegetables. If you feel hard-pressed in getting all your vitamins from fruits and vegetables, look for high quality (and usually a lot more expensive) multivitamins derived from natural food sources. The following is a list of nutrients essential for optimum immune system function:
- Vitamin A boosts the body’s ability in fighting infections, protecting you from colds, sore throat, and viral infections. It also has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Well-known sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, bok choy, collards, Swiss chard), broccoli, squash, papaya, mangoes, and seaweed (nori/laver, wakame, dulse, kelp).
- Riboflavin (B2) is an antioxidant and immune-boosting vitamin. It can be found in yeast, whole grains (whole wheat, oats, brown and wild rice, quinoa), seaweed, and green leafy vegetables.
- Pantothenic acid or B5 is another immune-enhancing, anti-inflammatory vitamin that also reduces your body’s stress levels. Ground and tree nuts and whole grains are rich sources of this vitamin.
- B6 or pyridoxine maintains immune system health by producing disease-fighting antibodies. Wheat germ, bananas, potatoes, green leafy vegetables, carrots, and peas have abundant amounts of B6.
- Vitamin C is another antioxidant vitamin that helps your white blood cells fight infections. Ascorbic acid is both time- and laboratory-tested when it comes to preventing colds and relieving its symptoms. Broccoli, bell peppers, mangoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, cabbage, parsley, seaweed, tomatoes, pineapple, and goji berries will supply you more than the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C.
- Copper also plays an important role in proper immune function. It can be found in peanuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, prunes, and wholemeal bread.
- Iron enables the immune system to destroy pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Iron is more bio-available if obtained from dried fruit, bitter gourd, parsley, and dark leafy greens.
- Selenium stimulates the immune system by activating antioxidant enzymes that protect the body from various diseases. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, whole meal bread, walnuts, fruits and vegetables all contain a significant amount of this mineral.
- Zinc helps protect the body from infections and colds. Get your zinc from wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, Brazil nuts, and ginger root.
Above, we touched upon alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables and plant-based sources of key vitamins and minerals that can help you build immunity. While there is no denying that vitamins and minerals play a key role in disease prevention, here are some additional tips to help you achieve immunity during the cold season (or year long!):
- Green superfoods are some of the most complete and balanced, nutritionally-rich food you can find that are packed with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and phytonutrients. Superfoods such as spirulina, chlorella, and wheat grass can help in strengthening the body against disease and in healing from them as well. They can be taken in capsule or tablet form and are also available in powder form, making it easy to add to fresh fruit smoothies and juices.
- Coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. A tablespoon of this wonderful oil every day will enhance your immune system and improve your over-all health in so many ways, such as lowering bad cholesterol and regulating your blood sugar. It doesn’t hurt either that coconut oil will keep your metabolism from going slow, preventing weight gain while helping your body stay warm during the winter season.
- Avoid refined sweets such as white sugar, soda, candy, chocolate bars, ice cream, cakes, pastries, canned, sweetened fruits, sugar-loaded cereals, cookies, and canned or bottled juices. They depress the immune system and feed unfriendly bacteria and viruses. Dairy will do the same thing to your body and therefore, following a vegan diet is beneficial for good health and immunity.
- Deep-fried foods are no help either. Prolonged frying with high temperature oxidizes oil, which causes free radical damage to cells and tissues. Opt for steamed or lightly sauteed veggies or a bowl of warm vegetable soup instead, if you are craving warm foods.
- Fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables are always your immune system’s best bet. If you think you can’t eat them raw all the time, do not overcook your vegetables. Steam or stir-fry them at low heat for a maximum three minutes to preserve maximum nutrients. The lesser time vegetables are subjected to heat, the more they’ll be able to nourish you.
- Probiotics are very important in that they populate your intestinal immune army by billions. Plain unsweetened soy, casein-free yogurt and vegan (plant-based) acidophilus powder contain friendly microorganisms that will help your body kick bad bacteria butt.
- Drink plenty of clean water, as dehydration has been known to greatly impair immune function.
- Onion, ginger, oregano, turmeric, and cayenne pepper do not just add a chock-full of good flavor to any dish. They have also been shown to enhance immune system activity, so don’t think twice about adding them to your food.
- Garlic is one famous bulb due to its antiviral, antibiotic, and anti-fungal compounds. The legendary black plague thieves didn’t contract the deadly disease even with their frequent contact with infected victims because they ate several cloves of garlic regularly. It is best to consume fresh, unheated garlic. Can’t eat your garlic raw? Buy a bottle of raw, aged garlic capsules.
With proper understanding and self-education you will realize that you don’t have to depend on drugs for health. Eating the right kinds of food and following a healthy lifestyle can be enough to keep the coughs and sniffles at bay. Remember, you may not enjoy the weather, but you can definitely enjoy good health!