Immune Boosters

by:  Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, The Running Nutritionist®

Staying healthy is essential for maintaining your physique especially during flu season. If you’re an athlete trying to keep the candle lit at both ends, keeping up with studying, Facebook and late night talks with your friends it can quickly take its toll on your health.

The key to keeping colds and infections at bay is to maintain your normal diet as best as you can. Getting enough calories and carbohydrates to support intense training is especially important since depleted muscle glycogen is associated with decreased immunity. Depleted glycogen stores forces your body to use protein from muscle for energy which exhausts reserves required for immune building antibodies.

Beyond fuel, there are also several foods you might want to have on hand.

For instance, a banana a day may keep the doctor away since its rich in Vitamin B6, which is involved in protein metabolism and cellular growth. In a nutshell (walnuts especially) B6 also found in potato, garbanzo beans, tomato juice and chicken breast helps to maintain the health of lymphoid organs like the spleen and lymph nodes that make white blood cells.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a deficiency in Vitamin B6 deficiency can decrease your antibody production and suppress your immune response.

In addition to tomato juice which is potent B6 source, cranberry juice has been found to halt virus proliferation. Known as the king of urinary tract infection (UTI) prophylactics, recent studies have shown that cranberry juice can also stop the growth of nasty viruses. Florida grapefruit or orange juices are also great, rich in vitamin C and antioxidant, potassium an electrolyte, & folate, a blood booster which all keeps your body’s cells & muscles healthy & strong.

 What if you’ve already caught the bug?

Try a cup of chicken soup with vegetables and spices and wash it down with a cup of hot black tea. Boost your soup with garlic, leeks and onions, a source of the compound allicin; mushrooms and barley, rich in beta glucan, a complex carbohydrate, and seasoning with basil, black pepper, cilantro, cinnamon, dill, parsley, peppermint, oregano, & thyme, can give you an extra anti bacterial kick. Black tea can strengthen the immune system, fend off a cold, and may also help you to recover faster since it contains the amino acid theanine which has also been shown to be flu fighting.

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