As the temperature drops in much of the US, flu season is upon us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the flu causes between 9 and 40 million illnesses every year. Strengthening your immune system is key to making it through the winter without being knocked out by a horrible bout of flu or other winter illnesses such as colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, and strep throat.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is a worthwhile endeavor, but it isn’t always easy. That’s because the immune system is exactly that — a system that runs throughout the entire body and is made up of various various organs, cells, and tissues. The immune system includes the skin, bone marrow, the lymphatic system, white blood cells, and mucous membranes.
To function well, the immune system requires balance throughout the body. If one part of the immune system is compromised, it can throw everything else out of balance. Science still doesn’t fully understand how all of the different parts of the immune system function together, and researchers are still studying the effects of different lifestyle factors on the immune system.
But generally speaking, choosing a healthy lifestyle is the best approach to keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including the parts involved in the immune system, functions better when supported by healthy living strategies such as the following.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 5 cups of fruit and vegetables per day to help promote good health and prevent disease. But 90 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.
If you’re among that 90 percent, start looking for ways to get more fruits and vegetables into every meal. Focus on the following foods:
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, and it’s common knowledge that it’s good to get more vitamin C if we’re feeling ill. That’s because vitamin C is thought to increase the number of white blood cells in your body, and white blood cells help fight off infections.
Your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, so you need to get it every day from your diet.
Some popular citrus fruits to add to your diet include oranges, tangerines, clementines, grapefruit, and lemon. Try eating half a grapefruit with breakfast, or have an orange as an afternoon snack.
Red bell peppers are also high in vitamin C. In fact, ounce for ounce, they contain double the vitamin C of citrus fruits. They’re also high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps keep your skin and eyes healthy.
Bell peppers are great raw with some hummus as a snack, or toss some in a stir fry for dinner.
Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, and potassium. Cooking broccoli can reduce the vitamin C content, so add some raw broccoli to a salad. You can also steam it without losing nutrients. Try some steamed broccoli with baked salmon or chicken.
Allicin, a compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped, has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Garlic has long been used in various forms of traditional medicine to help strengthen the immune system and fight infection. So go ahead and use garlic liberally in your cooking, or make a traditional Italian garlic soup if you’re feeling under the weather.
Even light smoking or social smoking harms the cardiovascular system. Light smoking is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and respiratory tract infections. To keep your immune system strong, don’t smoke — even if you do it only once in a while. Quitting completely is best for our long-term health.
Physical activity may help reduce your risk of a cold or infection by flushing bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Exercise is also a great form of stress relief, and chronic stress can take a toll on the immune system.
To keep your immune system strong, find ways to add more physical activity into your day, especially if you work at a desk job. Sitting too long is linked to a number of health concerns, including premature death. Health experts recommend getting up to move around every 30 minutes. Stand up while you talk on the phone, and work at a standing desk if possible.
Use your lunch break to take a walk, or walk up and down stairs if you work in a high-rise building.
Don’t underestimate the importance of quality sleep for good health. It’s easy to think we can get by on less sleep when we’re busy and overworked. But lack of sleep can suppress immune system function. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep, or don’t get quality sleep, are more likely to become ill after being exposed to a virus. And if you do get sick, a lack of sleep can make it harder to recover from illness.
Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, make it a priority to go to bed earlier. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day, and reduce your exposure to blue light in the evening by shutting off TVs, computers, and phones two hours before bedtime.
We know it can be hard to get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet when you’re busy. That’s why we created Balance the Superfood shot — a convenient 2 oz. drink that contains half your daily serving of organic fruits and vegetables. For an extra boost of goodness this season, try our Immunity Blend — it contains 1000% of your daily requirements of vitamin C, along with organic elderberry, acerola cherry, orange, concord grape, carrot, beet, blueberry, pomegranate, spinach, and broccoli to keep your immune system strong. Order now!
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