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It is that time of year again (groan!). Welcome to the cold and flu season. Your first inclination may be to head to the closest drugstore and stock up on tissues and cold medication. If you dread the thought of a runny or stuffed up nose, sneezing, sinus congestion, a headache, the chills and a dry scratchy throat, be proactive.

How can you accomplish that? Get regular physical activity (even walks will fit the fitness bill in the fall and winter months) and improve the work of your overworked immune system by paying attention to your nutrition.

Here’s how:

One – Think healthy protein:

One of the many tasks of protein is to improve the body’s ability to produce antibodies that fight diseases and infections. Choose high-protein foods that are also are made up of healthy fats. Examples of these include ground turkey breast, white-meat chicken, beans, fish, nuts, tofu and non-fat dairy. Stay away from fatty red meats and dairy foods that are high in their fat content. These foods promote inflammation around the heart and should be avoided.

Two – Enjoy a cup of black tea:

To improve your body’s ability to fight viruses, drink more black tea. Those who consume five cups (approximately three mugs) of black tea on a daily basis, produce 10 times more “virus-fighting interferon” than those individuals who drink coffee.

Three – Add some color to your diet:

Fruits and vegetables come in every color of the rainbow- well practically! Load up on as many colors as you can. Bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes are all excellent sources of vitamin C and flavonoids. These essential substances support the body in sending out protective immune cells. You need these foods so eat up as often as possible!

Four – Choose cereals that are 100 percent whole-grain:

Oatmeal and shredded wheat are two whole-grain cereals that are rich in the nutrients beta glucan, selenium and zinc. These three nutrients are particularly beneficial in the winter months because they enhance the work of the immune system.

Five – Fight illness with spiced up chicken soup:

Even with the best efforts, it is still possible to catch something during the cold and flu season. If you do come down with something, turn to the old standby, chicken soup. Chicken soup has the potential to shorten the duration of your illness by as much as 50 percent.

There have been many theories proposed as to why this may be the case. One of the theories has to do with an amino acid called cysteine.  When chicken is cooked, it releases this amino acid, which is chemically similar to a drug for bronchitis called acetylcysteine.

To enhance chicken soup’s power to fight the flu and a cold, add some garlic and hot red pepper to your soup. Garlic is excellent at fighting viruses while hot red pepper contains capsaicin, which is a very strong decongestant. Chicken soup with a little dill weed added to it can also do your infection a world of good.

Stay well!

Becca

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During winter and as you go about your daily lives you need to take extra special care of your health. The cold season brings with it plenty of chills, and dialing up the heat on your health and well-being is important for every member of the family.

When the cold and flu season strikes good nutrition is important for everyone in your household. Serve your children the most nutritious snacks you can and make sure that their daily diets are well balanced. Eating right makes it easier for the immune system to do its job properly. Some smart winter snack options for yourself and your kids include raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery and cut up pieces of broccoli and  cauliflower, dried and fresh fruits such as apples, oranges and pears, yogurt with flax-seed or wheat germ and some berries mixed in and whole-wheat crackers with cheese.

Make sure that your children do not become dehydrated. While we sweat less in winter than we do in the summer months it is still important to keep the body well hydrated.

Encourage your children to drink water, as well as juices that are low in sugar but high in their vitamin C content. Studies have shown that being properly hydrated can lessen the severity as well as the duration of colds during the winter months. Decaffeinated tea and hot cocoa are also excellent winter beverages as they are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants which in turn can help to strengthen the immune system.

Make sure you dress your children properly when they leave for school and when they go out to play. You want them to feel comfortable but not so bulky in their outdoor clothing that they cannot move about freely.

Dress them in layers and make sure when they go out to play that you have dry mittens, hats and scarves waiting by the door. On days when the temperature drops limit their outdoor playtime or suggest an enjoyable indoor activity instead.

Keep your kids prepared for the time of year it is. Tuck an extra pair of gloves or mittens in their school bags, as well as an extra pair of socks. Buy small packs of tissues and put them into one of the pockets of their school bags as well. Make sure you let them know that they are there if they need them! The tissues will help your children blow their noses and will prevent the spread of germs.

If they get snow in their boots when they are playing in the school yard then an extra pair of socks will come in handy. Gloves get wet and sometimes one will go missing so  having an extra pair can help out your child if that happens to him or her during the school day.

Being outside in the winter is not only fun but healthy and keeps everybody sane – just make sure your kids are well-protected from the cold and change wet or damp clothes when they come indoors.

Becca

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No one enjoys being sick with a cold or the flu but for many it is par for the course during the colder months of the year.

The cold and flu season gets its start sometime in mid to late October and ends some time in late March or April. There is no cure for these illnesses but there are ways to safe guard yourself against the viruses. Let’s look at a few of the ways to prevent getting sick.

One of the simplest and most overlooked ways to keep germs at bay is to wash your hands as often as possible. Wash them before meals and wash them after touching contaminated surfaces such as telephones, remote controls, doorknobs, and faucets. Wash your hands with warm water and soap. Spend a few minutes washing and rinsing. Make sure you dry your hands thoroughly afterward. It would be helpful if you kept sanitary wipes in your purse or desk at work. You might also want to use a hand sanitizer when finding your way to a bathroom is impossible.

Rev Up the Immune System

Your immune system could use a boost during the flu season. In order to keep your immune system working at full capacity, make sure you eat a nutritious and well balanced diet every day and exercise on a regular basis. Studies have proven that moderate physical activity has a positive effect on the immune system and over time can help prevent the onset of colds and other respiratory problems. You also need to get as much rest as possible and to keep your stress level to a minimum. If you have an unhealthy habit such as eating too much or smoking or drinking too much alcohol then cutting back on these habits can reduce the workload on your immune system.

Preventing Sickness with Food

Certain foods are instrumental in preventing the development of colds and the flu. If you find yourself or a family member getting sick over and over again then maybe it is time you ate more preventative foods.

Many dairy products including cheese contain a natural substance called conjugated linoleic acid which can improve immune system function. Another dairy product, yogurt contains friendly bacteria called probiotics that can strengthen the immune system.

Garlic is excellent as a food source for preventing sickness during the cold season. Garlic increases a person’s resistance to both stress and infections. The immune fighting power of garlic is most realized when the cloves are crushed before it is added to food. Once crushed, the garlic juice can be released and do its sickness fighting work. Onions have similar immune system properties. If you do not like garlic then consider taking a garlic supplement over the fall and winter months.

The immune system also gets a boost when it gets plenty of vitamin C. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons and limes. You can also find it in fruit juices but to a lesser extent. Look for pure fruit juices that contain very little sugar.

Zinc is an essential mineral that is very beneficial to proper immune system function. Zinc can be found in chicken and meat as well as peanuts and peanut butter. It is also found in plentiful supply in oysters and in some types of seafood such as crab and lobster.

Take care of yourself throughout the cold and flu season and do everything you can to send the message to sickness that you don’t want what it has to offer!

Samantha

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