With cold weather coming, and given the surge of COVID-19 this winter, it’s more important than ever to keep our immune systems healthy. Of course, there is no “magic pill” that’s been proven to boost our immunity because the immune system is exactly that – a system. It’s not one single thing. It requires balance and harmony between our minds and bodies. Here are 4 tips about what we can do to try to stay healthy this winter (and year-round for that matter).
- Manage Stress
I’ve often talked about stress-relieving techniques such as mindfulness practices. I use two apps on my phone that you may find helpful: Headspace and Calm. Just 5-10 minutes a day trains your brain to help slow down the hamster wheel in your head. Also, practicing some of the other tips will greatly help to reduce stress, such as exercise and sleep.
Study after study has shown the relationship between sleep and the immune system. Sleep must be prioritized and scheduled. People’s need for sleep varies, but most of us need between 7-9 hours per night. Some tips if sleep is elusive: No electronics within an hour of bedtime, turn down the temperature at night, and avoid caffeine late in the day.
Getting a reasonable amount of exercise consistently is huge to our immune system and overall health. The experts say making it a part of your daily routine is the key. The important thing is to just get moving. Shoot for at least 30 minutes a day and a combination of cardio and resistance training is ideal.
Here are some foods that the experts say are especially beneficial to boost our immune system and are great for our overall health.
Blueberries have the highest antioxidant level of all fresh fruit. They contain a powerful antioxidant called flavonoids that reduce cell damage and strengthen our immune system. I incorporate a small handful of blueberries with my breakfast most mornings – either sprinkling some on granola with yogurt, sprinkling on oatmeal, or just some on the side along with a sliced banana or other fruit.
Garlic is found in virtually every cuisine in the world and has been long recognized as providing numerous health benefits, including fighting infections, slowing down the hardening of our arteries, and lowering our blood pressure. Garlic’s boost to our immune system is thought to come from its concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Fresh spinach is packed with antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin C. I incorporate fresh spinach on all kinds of food by putting a small handful on whatever I may be eating, whether it’s soup or Chinese take-out.
Look for yogurt that has live and active cultures, such as Greek yogurt. These stimulate digestion and boost your immunity.
Almonds are packed with healthy fats and with vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant and an important key to a healthy immune system. During the work week, I usually find my energy level and attention span drops around 3 o’clock or so. Rather than drink caffeine like I used to do, I found that by having a small healthy snack (a small apple, a handful of almonds and a string cheese is my personal go-to snack) it boosts my energy level so that I can continue to be productive through the end of the business day.
I love me some chicken! And when we’re sick and reach for chicken soup, apparently science is discovering that it helps lower inflammation and provides a healthy boost of other vitamins. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6 which plays an important part in many of the chemical reactions in our bodies including the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
For me, I have found that consistently incorporating these practices has helped me stay reasonably fit and able to enjoy the many adventure sports that I do (and hopefully will for many years to come). We’ll see – it seems to work pretty well for me so far. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you too.
Wishing you health and happiness this upcoming winter and beyond!