Baby, it’s cold outside. Eat healthy so you don’t get sick.

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Ryan Day Coaching

I don’t know about you, but it’s getting cold here in Charleston.  Some of you may be thinking, “Ryan, 55 degrees isn’t cold.”  And all I can say is: We can agree to disagree. I live in the South for a reason.

Whether you think 55 is cold or not, you can’t deny that we’re getting into the time of year when everybody and their brother seems to be getting sick.

With colder weather pushing people indoors more frequently, we’re exposed to far more germs from constantly being around others.  I actually just learned that this is the main driver in the uptick in colds during winter months – not the cold weather itself. The more ya know.

Either way, nobody likes being sick.  So today we’ll explore how your diet can be a powerful tool in strengthening your immune system and keeping you healthy through winter.

Eat the Rainbow

A couple months ago we talked about “eating the rainbow”, which is a fun way of saying to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of all different colors. In doing this, you’re giving your body a really diverse set of nutrients to help it function optimally.

This time of year, it’s super important to eat the rainbow (maybe even two rainbows) to make sure you’re getting all of the key nutrients that can bolster your immune system.

Remember, these aren’t magic bullets, but they’ve been shown to play crucial roles in supporting immune function.

Vitamin C: The Classic Defender 🍊

Widely celebrated for its immune-boosting properties, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps protect cells and supports the production and function of white blood cells. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli. While it won’t magically cure a cold, consistent intake may reduce its duration and severity.

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin ☀️

Dubbed the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential for immune function. Research suggests that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may help reduce the risk of respiratory infections. While sunlight is a natural source, fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and supplements are excellent dietary options, especially during the darker months.

Another quick note on vitamin D – this is the only vitamin that human bodies can make on their own. In other words, God thought it was so important that he allowed us to make it on our own just in case we weren’t getting enough of it through our diet. Vitamin D supplementation might be something to consider during winter months when you aren’t outside as much.

Zinc: The Mighty Mineral 🦸‍♂️

Zinc is a crucial player in immune response, supporting the activity of various immune cells. Foods like meat, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in zinc. This is also the active ingredient in those cold-shortening aids like Zicam or Cold-Eeze. Although too much zinc can be harmful, maintaining an adequate intake can contribute to a robust immune system.

Protein: The Building Blocks 🍗

Proteins are the building blocks of life, and they play a vital role in the immune system. They provide the amino acids necessary for the production of immune cells and antibodies (as if I needed another reason to beat you over the head with my “protein is important” hammer).

Include meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and nuts in your diet for a protein-packed defense against those nasty colds. Shoot for a bare minimum of 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day.

Garlic: The Flavorful Warrior 🧄

Garlic isn’t just for repelling vampires; it likely also helps repel the common cold and flu. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, has antimicrobial and antioxidant effects which can fight off viruses and bacteria. While adding a bit of garlic to your meals won’t make you invincible, it certainly contributes to a well-rounded immune-supportive diet.

Fermented Foods: The Gut Guardians 🥦

A healthy gut is linked to a robust immune system (among a host of other benefits). Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain probiotics that support gut health and allow your body to more optimally utilize all the other good nutrients we’re talking about today. A happy gut enhances the production of immune cells and provides an extra layer of defense against infections.

Hydration: The Liquid Hero 💧

Staying well-hydrated is often overlooked but is critical for overall health, including immune function. Water helps transport nutrients, flushes out toxins, and ensures your immune cells operate at their best.

How much water is enough? Shoot for half your bodyweight in ounces plus 16 ounces for every hour of exercise.

Balanced Diet: The Immune Symphony 🎻

Remember, no single nutrient holds the key to a robust immune system. It’s the symphony of nutrients working together in a balanced diet that creates a resilient defense against illnesses. Incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods to ensure your body gets the diverse array of nutrients it needs. Again, eat the rainbow.

In Conclusion

While no diet can guarantee immunity from every sniffle, adopting a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet supports your body’s natural defenses. Combine this with regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and stress management and you’re well on your way to reducing the duration and severity of your colds (if you get them at all 😏).