Cold and flu season is upon us, but not all of our immune systems are ready to deal with it. Whether you always get sick this time of your, or you just subjected your body to a heavy night of partying, that dreaded tickle in the back of your throat is only a sign of things to come—unless you take care of it right away. However, throwing back an Emergen-C isn’t enough, as your body can only handle so many nutrients at a time (and it will flush the excess, rendering your efforts useless). Consider the benefits putting your whole day to work by planning your meals around immune-boosting foods, while making sure you get plenty of hydration. Here’s an easy, one-day meal plan designed to give your body a fighting chance.
Main: South-western scrambled eggs
Although it may sound like your typical breakfast, a plate of these will not only fill you up, but build up your resistance to getting sick. Vitamin D is a known deterrent to catching a cold, and each egg contains 37 IUs, or six per cent of your daily recommended intake. Furthermore, substituting peppers of the red variety for green peppers gives you a colourful boost of Vitamin C. One chopped red pepper contains 190 milligrams of Vitamin C, which saves you the trouble of eating two oranges. Red peppers also boost the development of your mucosal cells, which prevent bacteria from infecting you.
Side: Kiwi fruit and yogurt
Kiwi fruit have a high concentration of bioavailable Vitamin C floating around, to the tune of 137 milligrams per serving. Mix a handful of chopped kiwi into some yogurt whose labels states that it contains the useful bacterium, Lactobacillus reuteri (Stonyfield Farm Yogurt is a known brand). This helpful little bugger stops harmful microorganisms from replicating, boosting your immune system. On top of that, if you already have the flu, it can help with diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues that might crop up.
Caffeine, and therefore your favourite morning brew, isn’t the best for you while you’re fighting off a cold. It elevates the presence of stress hormones in your body, which in turn suppresses the immune system’s activity. Instead, reach for a slightly less caffeinated option, and one that’s chock full of antioxidants and more. Polyphenols present in the form of catechins make green tea an especially great option, as they have been found to be 25 to 100 times more potent than antioxidant vitamins C and E. Sweeten with honey to soothe a sore throat.
Main: Roast beef sandwich on toasted quinoa bread with low-fat garlic aioli
Key infection-fighting nutrients include iron and zinc, something red meat is especially rich in. Lean beef contains a whopping 82 per cent of your daily value of zinc in just 100 grams, as well as iron that helps activate white blood cells to ward off microscopic invaders. Throw some cold cuts onto a toasted loaf made with quinoa flour; this ancient grain contains complete amino-acid proteins useful in fighting infection, and no gluten that can inflame sensitive membranes. Finally, top that sucker off with some low-fat garlic aioli to take advantage of allicin, a nutrient with antiviral properties that has been proven to shorten the duration of a cold.
Side: Spicy black bean soup
Adding an extra kick of protein to your lunch, a spicy black bean soup can temporarily open your sinuses, relieving you of any build up with the capsaicin it contains. Black beans also include a hefty amount of zinc themselves, at around 4 per cent your daily value per cup, as well as 3.6 grams of iron.
Avoid: Fast food
Taking the quick and easy option while you’re feeling off is a surefire method to get sick. Saturated fats have been linked to cardiovascular disease, but did you know that they also make your body release cortisol, which lowers immune response? The stress hormone can also make you feel very sluggish after a meal, which won’t be doing you any favours if you’re already missing sleep.
Smoothie: Wheat germ and blueberry
A true meeting of the cold-killing superfoods. Toasted wheat germ contains an insane amount of the aforementioned mineral, zinc. Zinc reduces the duration of a cold by over 50 per cent according to some studies, and a quarter cup of wheat germ contains 4.7 milligrams of the stuff, or almost a third of your daily intake. Blend that amount of wheat germ (toasted is tastier—it’s a bit nutty) with one cup of blueberries and a cup of orange juice for a kick of antioxidants in smoothie form.
Main: Lemon-ginger chicken breast
Make a health-boosting marinade with some chopped ginger, crushed garlic, a few tablespoons of honey and about a quarter cup of lemon (plus some thinly-sliced lemon rounds, if you’re feeling fancy). Garlic and honey have already been covered, but a good dose of ginger can be a lifesaver if your throat is sore due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Douse the marinade over some lean chicken, which contains the immune-boosting compound carnosine, and bake it for an easy main that may also have a relaxing effect, preparing you for sleep.
Side: Chipotle carrots and sweet potatoes
This duo of beta-carotene-infused root veggies will help boost your levels of vitamin A, a key ingredient to keeping your body healthy and strong. It helps level out your body when it’s fighting the ups and downs of a cold, and it helps rebuild your mucous membranes much like red peppers do. Toss some steamed sweet potatoes and carrots in chipotle and butter for a savory (and spicy) side dish. Just don’t use too much butter, as dairy makes you overproduce that mucous, which can lead to increased irritation and poor sleep as a result.
You had a hard day at work, made harder by that pesky bug that’s been sapping your strength. Surely, you deserve a quick beer or two? Unfortunately, that glass of vino with your dinner may set you back more than any other substance. Not only does it kill your immune system, getting drunk also messes with the quality of your sleep and acts as a diuretic, which is to say it will dehydrate you. If you’re miserable and craving a night cap of sorts, skip the booze and enjoy a hot shower to relax your body.