Whether you should starve a cold or feed a fever doesn't seem to matter when you're not feeling well. At that time, you'd give anything to regain control over those simple functions we take for granted, like breathing and swallowing. Although the pharmacy shelves are lined with products that promise to make you feel better as fast as you can swallow them, a more economical and longer-lasting approach might be trying more natural methods that can help keep you feeling your best throughout any season.
1. Getting enough hours of sleep at night is a great way to super-charge your immune system, and it will help keep your energy up all day. If you haven't tried it in a while, unplug your devices early tonight and shoot for eight straight hours of shut-eye. It could work wonders.
2. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes loads of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Although scientists are still debating whether vitamin C can help ward off the cold and flu, there's no reason not to take extra caution by adding some vitamin C-rich foods to your diet. Citrus fruits, strawberries and baked potatoes all make delicious additions to a flu-busting diet.
[Read: What Makes a Healthy Diet?]
3. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E – an immune-boosting vitamin that's not very easy to get without the help of this valuable nut. Sprinkle sliced almonds on cereal, spread almond butter on whole-grain toast or bread fish and chicken with almond meal to help keep colds and flu at bay.
4. Consuming forms of lean protein is also important to help your body rebuild after infection occurs, particular types rich in omega 3-fatty acids. Wild-caught salmon is a protein-rich way to stay satiated while staying away from catching a cold or the flu. You can enjoy the benefits of wild-caught salmon all year by choosing canned types.
5. Tea is my beverage of choice, especially when the temperature drops. This globally-loved beverage is rich in antioxidants that protect the immune system and help us feel cozy all winter. Add some honey and lemon to soothe your throat and provide a healing, medicinal effect.
6. Being ill is stressful in itself – but perhaps it was the stress that depressed your immune system in the first place. Being happy doesn't guarantee that you won't catch a cold, but laughing can help by increasing infection-fighting cells.
7. Get outside! Staying indoors and hibernating until winter passes is not the answer to keeping healthy. Winter sports or a brisk (yes, chilly) walk can be invigorating and immune-boosting. Bundle up and grab a friend, and try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or even walking around your own neighborhood.
8. Wash your hands before, during and after meal preparation and as often as you need to during the course of your day.
9. Get vaccinated. The flu shot only takes a minute and can save you days of having to stay in bed recovering from that virus. Shots are available in many pharmacies and walk-in clinics.
Although I've always taught my kids to share, I prefer when they keep their germs to themselves. Teach your kids (and co-workers) to cover their mouths when sneezing – and by all means, if you're sick, treat yourself to a day off.
[Read: Why You Should Get the Flu Vaccine.]
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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.