How to Fight Cold and Flu Season (and Win!)

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While autumn and winter bring about stellar sweaters, scarves, and boots galore, it also brings around the cold and flu virus and that’s just downright yucky. Instead of spending Saturday night nursing a runny nose or impossible phlegm, and a fever with a sore throat that makes you sound like Batman, arm yourself this season by taking preventive measures and adding essential vitamins and minerals to your diet to reduce the time you spend being sick.

The Facts

Seeing an average of one billion cases of cold occurring each year in the U.S., cold and flu season is totally not cool. By the end of this year, 20% of Americans can expect to get the flu virus. Even though getting vaccinated won’t keep you from getting sick, it does lower the risk of contracting influenza and preventing further complications, while reducing the spread.

The Essentials

Vitamin C

While Vitamin C doesn’t exactly prevent oncoming colds or flu, it has been proven to shorten the duration of staying sick in bed. Acting as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory to help dry that runny nose, Vitamin C improves immune function by increasing the body's ability to produce white blood cells and antibodies needed to defend itself against those pesky infectious invaders.

  • Recommended dosage: 75 mg/day
  • Food sources: An array of fruits and veggies like papaya, oranges, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and strawberries.

Vitamin D

In recent years, Vitamin D has been hailed a hero in the fight against influenza. Regarded as a highly effective way to reduce the risk of the cold and flu virus, the sunshine vitamin plays a key role in immune system function and acts like a natural antibiotic working against every microbe imaginable.

  • Recommended dosage: 400 IU/day (or 10 minutes in the sun before noon, sans sunscreen)
  • Food sources: Oily fish low in mercury like tuna, sardines, salmon and mackerel (wild-caught), mushrooms, beef, egg yolks, cheese, milk and dairy.

Vitamin A

This immune-boosting nutrient helps your body produce white bloods cells, which fights viruses and keeps mucous membranes healthy. Naturally occurring in both plant and animal tissues, our body converts the beta-carotene from yellow and orange vegetables into Vitamin A.

  • Recommended dosage: 700 mcg
  • Food sources: Beef liver, dairy products, and darkly colored vegetables like sweet potatoes and kale, or fruits, like mangos and cantaloupe.

Zinc

Proven to reduce the duration of cold symptoms, zinc is found in almost every cell of our bodies and helps resist infection. With an ability to not grow or bind to the lining of our noses, zinc lozenges or zinc-based cold and flu medications can help you feel better quickly.

  • Recommended dosage: 8 mg/day
  • Food sources: Seafood, beef and other red meats, nuts and seeds, beans, milk and cheese.

Preventative Tips for Your Family

  • Proper hand washing is the easiest way to prevent an oncoming cold or flu. Start with warm water, antibacterial soap, and lather for half a minute with attention to nails and simply rinse.
  • Stock up the pantry with the basics like drinks full of Vitamin C, hot soups and liquids, and any other comfort meal because a run to the grocery store if cupboards are empty when you’re sick won’t be fun to restock.
  • Maintain healthy living habits with a healthy diet and get adequate sleep to preserve your immunity.
  • If you’re cooped up in the house all day, not only are you bored and not getting adequate activity, but it’s hard to stay healthy inside. Head out for a run and exercise!
  • Clean household surfaces with a disinfectant and vacuum.
  • Since viruses spread through towels and utensils, avoid sharing with others.

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