Did you know what you eat plays an important role in staying healthy during cold and flu season?
“Maintaining your everyday healthy eating pattern is very important for your immune system, rather than trying to catch up after the sniffling starts,” explains Alyssa O’Brien, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at The Oregon Clinic. “While the idea of boosting your immune system is somewhat of a misnomer, you can help it function most effectively by taking care of yourself.”
Maintaining a healthy diet keeps the immune system balanced and ready to fight against infection and viruses. Since your immune system requires a healthy balance of real foods, these nutrients should be a top priority for your everyday eating pattern:
Protein is the building block of immune cells. A diet lacking in protein can seriously hamper your immune function. Most adults need at least 50 grams of quality protein per day, or a palm-sized portion per meal. Try to incorporate quality protein at each meal, like eggs for breakfast, turkey chili for lunch, and fish or chicken for dinner.
Make sure your meals have COLOR. As a rule of thumb, the more colorful foods are, the healthier they are – unless you’re eating a bag of Skittles. Deep, rich colors indicate micronutrients and antioxidants, which your body needs for protection and recovery from illness. Studies have shown that antioxidants improve immune responses, so throw some purple cabbage, red bell pepper, and green beans in your grocery cart!
“Finding balance between life and food can be tough, so start small,” suggests Stephanie Moore, Registered Dietitian at The Oregon Clinic. “Implement one new food challenge each week and build from there.”
Here’s to staying healthy this winter with real foods!