Chills, sneezing, achy joints – ew! You’ve got the winter bug (or one of many of them), it seems. Having an illness or even just winter allergies is one of the least fun things to deal with during a time that’s filled with some of the year’s biggest holidays. No one wants to be the party pooper at an event, but when you don’t feel good, well… it’s hard to be all smiles and full of cheer – right? The best way to prevent having to deal with a cold, the flu, or allergies during the jolliest time of the year is to prevent them from coming on in the first place. It’s also a good idea to have an arsenal of natural remedies up your sleeve that you can turn to when signs of any sickness or allergic reaction start to appear. Thankfully, nature has some pretty tasty foods that can help us all do just that. Certain foods contain just the right vitamins, minerals, or macro-nutrients that our bodies need to feel their best. Here are some of the best:
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, (which is indicated by their glowing orange hue), that converts to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps to fight off free radicals that weaken the immune system and can also help improve your liver health to benefit you further. High amounts of Vitamin C are also found in sweet potatoes, which help scavenge up free radicals, along with strengthen overall immunity. Eat a sweet potato a few times a week to get the benefits. Try baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato soup, and even a sweet potato smoothie or hummus.
Carrots are also full of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which offer up the same benefits as sweet potatoes. Carrots have also been linked to improving even the most serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They’re also helpful for clearing out excess mucus from the body and excellent for combatting a low mood that can come when you’re not feeling well. Enjoy them in a freshly squeezed carrot juice, Cream of Wild Rice Vegan Soup, Carrot Miso Soup (which offers even more healing benefits), or Cleansing Quinoa Carrot Salad.
Spinach is a virtuous source of Vitamins A, C, E, K and even a few B vitamins too. It might as well have ‘superfood’ tattooed on its leaves! Spinach also offers up proteins to support the body and strengthen overall function of bodily organs. Whether eaten cooked or raw, spinach is also a good source of iron and its natural Vitamin C will increase the uptake of iron in your body to improve your red blood cell function. Vitamin E helps stave off free radicals and Vitamin K assists with overall healthy blood flow, crucial to overall immunity health. Try a detox spinach soup for something healing and nutritious, or just add a few spinach leaves to your morning smoothie!
Like spinach, kale is a go-to food for just about anything, including the flu, cold, cough, and even allergies. This leafy green improves the body’s defense mechanism and aids in strengthening. Kale is also a great source of magnesium (just like spinach) which will help combat fatigue, irregularity and moodiness that can all come when you’re not feeling well. The Vitamin C will help booster up immunity and the Vitamin A will provide even more healing benefits. Add it anywhere you can think of! How about a warming kale and dill soup with rice for something cozy?
5. Green Tea
Green tea has so many healing benefits, starting in the way it lowers inflammation in the body and boosts immune function. When drank warm, the beverage also helps clear out excess mucus, soothes a sore throat, and aids in overall cleansing. Green tea is also a great source of the amino acid L-theanine, which helps lower stress both mentally and physically. Aim to get three to four cups (decaf also works) of plain green tea in your day when you’re not feeling well. Add a squeeze of lemon for extra Vitamin C, flavor, and cleansing benefits. Also add some herbal teas to your routine for even more healing benefits.
6. Green Peas
Protein helps the body’s defense and strengthening mechanisms, and peas are one of the easiest to digest, most inexpensive, body-friendly choices. They’re a rich source of amino acids and fiber, and even have delicious sweet flavor. Add peas to soup, stews, wraps, salads, and even toss a few into your next green smoothie!
7. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a wealth of iron, protein, and even omega 3 fatty acids. They’re one of the few seeds to offer alkalizing benefits, along with sunflower and hemp seeds. Their bright green color indicates their high chlorophyll content which strengthens the body, lowers inflammation and promotes alkalinity that lowers risks for illness and disease. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of Vitamin E to fight off free radicals and their high amino acid content can help promote a healthy mood and strong body. Pumpkin seeds are even anti-parasitic and said to help eliminate even the scariest forms of bacteria within the body. Use pumpkin seed raw and unroasted whenever possible and add them to your bowl of creamy oatmeal, atop a smoothie, or even just as a simple snack.
8. Fresh Vegetable Juice
Freshly squeezed vegetable juice is one of the most healing tonics you can consume. Forget using them for detox diets – they’re a true wellness virtue to be enjoyed. Green juice, carrot juice, and tomato juice are all packed with antioxidants from these foods that can be hard to force down if you’re not feeling your best. Having some freshly squeezed vegetable juice will strengthen your immunity and deliver nutrients when your body needs them the most.
9. Hot Vegetable Broth
A hot cup of broth is another good option if you’re not in the mood for juice. Stick to veggie (not chicken) broth, and keep it low-sodium when possible. If you don’t feel like making your own, there are plenty of organic, low-sodium brands on the market that are excellent for helping you feel better fast. Drink a few cups a day and sprinkle in some cayenne, turmeric, sage, and black pepper for even more immune-boosting, healing benefits.
10. Camu Camu[caption id="attachment_148112" align="aligncenter" width="966"] Chris Brown/Flickr[/caption]
A true superfood that belongs in every wellness warrior’s kitchen is the almighty supefood, camu camu berry. Forget oranges for your Vitamin C! They don’t hold a candle to a 1/2 teaspoon of camu camu berry powder, which has 600 times the amount of Vitamin C you need daily. Take that colds, coughs, and the flu! Camu camu’s high Vitamin C content can also help strengthen the skin, helping promote a beautiful glow, along with luscious hair and nails. Best of all, it’s sold as a raw superfood powder, so it’s easy to add to oatmeal, a smoothie, or even blended into some water or almond milk with ice and a little stevia for taste. Consume a teaspoon a day when you’re not feeling well or a half teaspoon daily to prevent colds and illness from even coming on at all.
11. Probiotic-Rich Foods
Probiotics help booster immunity right where it starts – in the gut. You’re only as good as the bacteria in your gut that’s taking care of you. You might as well make sure these guys are as strong as they can be, right? Probiotic-rich foods include cultured and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut kefir, non-dairy yogurt, kombucha (this one’s powerful, beware), apple cider vinegar, real pickles, and even 100 percent raw cacao. Choose a variety of these foods or take a vegan probiotic supplement. You’ll be surprised how your immune system improves once you increase the good bacteria in your gut that eliminates harmful bacteria without you even knowing it.
12. Garlic, Ginger, and Onions
These are “the big 3” that will combat even the nastiest of all illnesses! They’re all beneficial for lowering inflammation, clearing out mucus, improving allergies, and reducing the overall length of illness. Combine them in soups and stews, and steep ginger root into tea whenever you can. Try Carrot Ginger Soup as an excellent place to start!
Other Wellness Wonder Tips:
Aim to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats daily. Keep all sweets and high-fat foods to a minimum, and consider reducing or eliminating all dairy products along with gluten products if you’re sensitive. These foods may weaken the ability to overcome allergies and don’t aid in cleansing and clearing out the body the way these whole foods above do.Remember to keep your diet as fresh and balanced as possible and get enough rest. Getting some fresh air daily will also help keep the bad bugs away as well, even when you don’t feel like getting out and moving at all. What’s your best go-to foods and drinks for winter ailments? Lead Image Source: Curried Lentil Soup