KEEPING COLDS & FLU AT BAY THIS WINTER
Author: Bianca Jonischkeit RD (SA)
As the cold starts to creep in and the peak of winter approaches, avoiding colds and flu in our households are one of our top priorities. Soups and stew are often our go to meals, to keep us warm and cozy, but it is not their only benefit. Healthy food can also be used as an aid to protect us against the common cold. However, getting enough sleep and exercise during the winter months is just as important. Continuing your healthy lifestyle habits (and yes that includes exercise) that you have built up in the summer months throughout winter can help support a healthy immune system. This is often easier said than done, so how can we keep up our healthy lifestyle habits during the winter months?
- EAT RIGHT
Our immune defence system is in place to protect us from harmful bacteria that can cause illness like colds and flu. Our very complex immune system requires specific micronutrients, including but not limited to vitamins A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, zinc, and selenium, to help with the immune response. Adequate amounts (the recommended daily amounts- RDA) of these micronutrients play a role at every stage of the immune response.1 More often than not, if we follow a balanced healthy diet, we can meet our daily requirements for these micronutrients from the foods we consume. Fruit and vegetables contain many of these micronutrients as well as antioxidants, so work towards consuming your 5 a day!
So which foods contain these micronutrients? Some include:
- Vitamin A is mostly found in orange-coloured fruits and vegetables including carrots, orange sweet potato, peppers, mango, and apricots. It is also found the green veggie, spinach.2
- Vitamin C which is found in citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruits and in green vegetables like broccoli.2
- A very good source of Vitamin D is directly from sunlight (which is synthesised through our skin), something we are not short of in South Africa even in the winter months! Food sources include foods that are fortified with vitamin D (milk and margarine) but be sure to check the label to make sure that it is fortified. Natural sources include egg yolks and liver.2
- Vitamin E is found in nuts. seeds and whole grains.2
- Zinc is found in beans, cereals, and beef.2
- Good sources of Selenium include tuna, eggs, Brazil nuts and chicken breasts.2
Now that we know what foods contain all these immune supporting micronutrients, how do me make sure we consume enough during the winter months? Step aside salads and sandwiches and hello soups and stews. Load soups and stews with different coloured veggies and legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Don’t like certain veggies? Simply blend them into your soups and you won’t even notice that they are there!
Remember to still follow a balanced diet, include all the food groups including carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, rice, potatoes, and pasta), proteins (meat, chicken, fish and legumes) and healthy fats (sunflower and canola oils, nuts, omega 3 from fish and avocados). Don’t forget to drink enough water. Even though its cooler outside, we still need water. Tip, if you find your water is too cold to drink, have lukewarm water with a bit of lemon.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep is a very important component of our daily lives and is often suggested to be the ‘best medicine’ when we are sick, but can it help prevent colds and flu too?
Research shows that sleep and the immune system are interdependent. It is understood that prolonged sleep deprivation may weaken our body’s defence system and thus if you are sleep deprived, you would be more likely to catch a cold. Sleep plays a crucial role in our immune system by improving infection outcomes (when you have an infection like a cold, the more you sleep, the faster you get better) and reducing your risk for getting an infection like a cold or the flu. Sleep deficiency has been associated with chronic inflammation which can lead to certain diseases like diabetes.3
So, make sure you set aside enough time in your evening for that all important sleep!
- CONTINUE TO EXERCISE
Getting enough sleep during the winter months is probably a lot easier to achieve than partaking in regular exercise in the cold. The practice of repeated moderate intensity exercise enhances the immune function response and assists in regulating the immune response.4 Exercise can help support our immune system and keep them strong throughout the winter months.
So, how can you motivate yourself to exercise during winter? Here are a few simple tips that you can follow to motivate yourself to exercise:
- Train together. Training with a friend or with your family is often a lot more fun, and you can motivate each other to exercise. Why not start a friends walking group?
- Set goals, just because it is a bit cooler, it doesn’t mean your goals need to change. What’s that notorious saying? “Summer bodies are created in winter” so why not set your exercise goals now?
- Decide when you are most comfortable exercising, we don’t all love to train very early in the morning and that is just fine. But decide the day before and pack or take out your gym clothes and decide on what exercise you will do, whether it’s a gym class, a run or finding a workout to do at the gym.
- Join a gym; joining a gym often provides that motivation to workout. Group classes are often available, and this can encourage you to go to the gym even though it might be a bit chilly outside.
Exercise doesn’t only include going to the gym or going for a run. Take the stairs instead of the lift, when possible, take regular breaks and walk around during the day to reach your daily step goal! Play games outside with the kids, not only will you get in some steps and exercise, but you will be absorbing some vitamin D too.
While the temperature plumets and the colds and flu start to creep in, give your immune system the support it needs by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
WHERE DOES FUTURELIFE® FIT IN?
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On a chilly morning, when all you want is something to warm your belly, why not try a bowl of the new FUTURELIFE® Smart Instant Oats Classic? FUTURELIFE® Smart Instant Oats Classic is instant so it is convenient to make if you are in a rush in the morning, contains 3 target minerals (selenium, zinc and copper) that contribute to the normal function of the immune system and it has been formulated with MODUCARE®- a daily immune supplement made from a patented blend of natural plant sterols and sterolins, in aclinically proven ratio of 100:1. MODUCARE® is supplied exclusively to FUTURELIFE®.
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Wanting to include some variety to your breakfasts?
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- Gombart AF, Pierre A, Maggini S. A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):236. Published 2020 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu12010236
- Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018
- Scheffer DDL, Latini A. Exercise-induced immune system response: Anti-inflammatory status on peripheral and central organs. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2020;1866(10):165823. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2020.165823