Feeling under the weather and want to speed up your recovery? Or want to avoid getting sick altogether?
Good news: with the right foods and eating habits, you can help your immune system fight off illness and, if you do get sick, re-bound quicker.
Remember the old adage “feed a cold, starve a fever”? Well, to a degree that rings true.
If you haven’t lost your appetite, eating while sick can help you get better.
(But if your stomach is saying no, pay attention. Best to follow your gut on this one.)
If you’re already sick and want to boost your resilience, here’s where to start.
Here are some of your best get-healthy foods:
- Garlic. A natural antibiotic, garlic can lessen the severity of colds and other infections.
- Chicken soup. Your mom was right to bring you chicken soup when you’re sick. It provides fluids and electrolytes, and may contain anti-inflammatory properties that decrease cold symptoms. You have to use real chicken soup though, not the kind from a can or package.
(Tip: next time you roast a chicken, save the carcass. Throw it in a pot and add water, a few veggies like carrots, celery and onions, a generous dash of salt and pepper, and let it simmer away. Strain the soup, and voila, you’ve got chicken broth. Store it in the freezer and reheat when you’ve got a case of the sniffles.)
- Green tea. Another reason green tea is good for you: it boosts the production of B cell antibodies, helping us rid ourselves of invading pathogens.
- Honey. Raw honey contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties (plus it’s an effective cough suppressant). A few teaspoons is all you need – try stirring it into a cup of green tea.
Now, here are some dietary considerations to get your immune system back in tip-top shape.
Eating practices to keep your immune system strong:
- Don’t over-eat. Consistent overeating could compromise how the immune system responds to invaders. One of the best ways you can improve this is by practicing eating slowly and eating until you’re just 80% full.
- Reduce saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids. Too many of these can lead to a dysfunctional gut and compromised immune system. Yes, healthy fats are an important part of any diet, but go easy on the animal fats and especially the seed oils (canola,
‘vegetable,’ sunflower). A fish oil supplement can help balance things out. But remember, too many Omega 3s is not a good idea, either.
- Go easy on the sugar. Added sugars and high glycemic load diets may reduce white blood cell function and be pro-inflammatory.
- Get adequate protein. Dietary protein insufficiencies may lower immunity. At each meal, men should eat about two palms of protein dense foods, and women should eat about one palm.
- Eat the rainbow. Nutrient deficiencies are common among even the healthiest eaters. To keep your immune system strong you need a full range of vitamins and minerals. Eating a diversity of whole foods (especially fresh vegetables, as showcased in this great Phytonutrient Cheat Sheet) is your best way to get all the nutrients every man needs.
(Tip: A fruit and veggie packed Super Shake can be a great way to get in some of those important vitamins and minerals. You can also consider consider a greens powder and/or a multivitamin as a supplement.)
Meanwhile, get your sleep, guys! There’s no avoiding it: a good night’s rest is one of the best things you can to avoid, or recover from illness.
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