Boost your Immune System this Winter by Making Smarter Food Choices

Jan 04, 2011

Written By: Colleen McNamara, Membership Consultant @ O2 Fitness Chatham

Winter.  Snowing, skiing, sledding... and... sickness!  If you haven't been hit by a cold or flu yet this winter, maybe it has to do with your nutrition.  Paying more attention to what you're eating can really effect how you're feeling.  Next time you're feeling bad, and you decide to reach for that ice-cream... think again!  Eating too much sugar can weaken your immune system and lead to illness.  Just 100g of sugar (about 2 sodas) is enough to reduce your immune system's function by about 40%.  Sugar weakens your white blood cells for up to 5 hours, and white blood cells are your body's main defense against disease carrying pathogens.

So how do we combat all of the sugar intake from those delicious holiday cookies?  Two great immune-boosting nutrients are zinc and vitamin C.  Does this mean you should run out to the local drug store and buy a bottle of zinc and a bottle of vitamin C?  Absolutely not.  The best way to get these nutrients into your body is... you guessed it... eating actual food!  Vitamins found in a bottle are much less effective than vitamins found in food because they are not absorbed as efficiently-- so think about what you're buying, and think about what you're putting into your body!  Boost up your nutrients this winter, stay healthy, and enjoy the chilly days without getting sick.  Many foods that are rich in zinc or vitamin c are also inexpensive and easy to prepare.  Don't let the cold get you down, and if you're feeling a little under the weather, boost yourself up with some of these immune-boosting food choices.

Foods with Zinc:

  • Oysters (6 medium):  40-75mg
  • Pumpkin Seeds (20g or 2/3oz):  1.3mg
  • Beef Shanks (3 oz cooked):  8-9 mg
  • Cocoa Powder (1/4 cup):  1.7mg ~ 0.85mg in 2 tbsp
  • Cheddar Cheese (1/4 cup):  1mg
  • Avocado (1/2 cup pureed):  0.78mg

Fact: An increased intake of vitamin B6, C, and E increases zinc absorption in the body.

Foods with Vitamin C:

  • Mango (1 cup):  95mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup):  45mg
  • Kohlrabi, Jicama:  45mg
  • Turnip Greens (1 cup chopped):  33mg
  • Kiwi:  25mg
  • Tomato (1 medium):  25mg
  • Potato (No, not fries…an actual potato):  A small baked potato has 25 mg.

Fact: Orange, red, and yellow peppers have about 2x the vitamin C of green.

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