Prevent Illness with Healthy Habits: Healthy Lifestyle to Support Immune Function
Cold and flu season are upon us, and COVID is not over yet. As the temperature and humidity drops, viruses may spread more easily. Having a strong immune system can keep you feeling good all winter. Your immune system includes the organs and processes that work to protect you from illness.
There are several lifestyle factors that can help to keep your immune system strong. A healthy, well-rounded diet, adequate hydration, quality sleep, good hygiene, regular exercise, and managing stress are all important.
Eat a variety of foods every day. Focus on immune supporting nutrients like zinc, protein, probiotics, prebiotics, and vitamins C, D, A,
Beta-Carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is found in plant foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli, and tomatoes. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified cow’s milk and plant milks.
Zinc may be better absorbed from animal sources such as beef and seafood, but also is in vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, nuts, and tofu. Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources like milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir and in fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, and natto. Make sure to promote the growth of good bacteria by eating a variety of plant foods.
Drink plenty of water thought out the day. If plain water starts to get boring, try adding citrus or herbs. Coconut water has electrolytes, which can promote increased hydration. Look for a low-sugar option. Coffee, tea, seltzer water, soups, smoothies, fruits, and vegetables all contribute to your hydration goals.
Ensure adequate quality sleep. Make sure to allow enough sleep to enable you to feel rested in the morning. Try to follow a sleep schedule, have a sleep routine before bed, and expose yourself to light first thing in the morning.
Wash your hands and wash them often. Avoid touching your face and eyes. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces like your phone and doorknobs.
Stay active! Aim to move your body every day. Every bit counts! A 5- to 10-minute walk whenever you can squeeze it in will have an impact.
Work to mitigate stress and find ways that help you to relax. Exercise, meditation, journaling, spending time outside and doing things you love, can all help you to manage stress.
There are many foods, herbs, and supplements that can help strengthen your immune system, but remember to look at the whole picture. Not one single nutrient or product can prevent illness, but an overall healthy lifestyle can.
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