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November 28, 2012

5 Simple Strategies to Head Off Colds and Flu

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

It happens every year: the holidays overlap with the cold and flu season.  With all the festivities, this is one time of year you don't want to be down for the count. Here's how to take better care of your immune system until New Year's Day, and beyond.

Pump up the protein. You rely heavily on infection-fighting immune cells to patrol your body, decimating germs before they can trigger a dry, hacking cough or head-pounding cold; those cells are made of protein. Protein-rich foods, such as Hood milk and cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs, meat, and seafood, provide the amino acids the body needs to make germ-busting cells. Include protein-packed choices at every meal and snack.

Stress Less. Easier said than done during the holidays, but worth trying. You're more susceptible to colds and flu when you're tired, emotionally exhausted, or both.  Chronically elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, released by the body into the bloodstream when we feel anxious, reduces immunity and makes it more likely you'll develop a cold when exposed to a virus.  Exercise on a regular basis, get adequate sleep, and relax whenever possible to reduce tension.

Pop a pill. Take a daily multivitamin with about 100% of the Daily Value for a wide variety of nutrients. Supplements are just that, and they cannot make up for poor health habits. However, multivitamins fill in small nutrient gaps that could bolster your immune system.

Reach for orange foods. Carrots, sweet potato, oranges, and tangerines offer infection protection.  The pigment, beta carotene, that provides orange foods with their bright hue also makes your skin and nasal passages more resistant to germs.  Oranges and other citrus foods are also rich in vitamin C, a potent immune system booster.

Drink tea.  Tea (not herbal) may stop germs in their tracks. Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital have discovered that that sipping 20 ounces of tea daily prompts your body's immune cells to pump out big doses of interferon, a key response against infection.

Get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone six months of age and older needs the flu vaccine . It's especially important for some people to get vaccinated, including pregnant women, those over age 65, and people with medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.



Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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