With kids well into the swing of school and winter approaching, something else is also looming: cold and flu season. Try as we might to feed our kids healthy snacks and meals while running from school to practice or violin, keeping the family on a healthy path can be tricky at times. But this time of year, it’s more important than ever to focus on nutrition for flu prevention in order to help your family avoid being hit by the bug.
Many experts agree that there are four key pillars of health:
While exercise and sleep are important and key to helping us (and our kids) fend off stress, nutrition and hydration truly lay the foundation for immunity. And this isn’t a new concept. The ancient philosopher Hippocrates was famous for saying —
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
5 nutrition tips for flu-prevention
1. Eat your fruits and veggies.
When we don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, we miss essential nutrients, which can lower our risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and even the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults should consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. Yet, in a recent CDC study, they found that 76% of adults don't eat enough fruit and 87% of adults don't eat enough veggies. If you or your family members are falling short on daily requirements, this is where vitamins can help to fill any nutrient gaps.
2. Focus on fats over carbohydrates.
Experts say that no more than 45% of our daily calorie intake should come from complex carbohydrates, such as green vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, corn and peas. The rest of our calorie intake should include lean proteins and healthy fats (fish is a good option here).
In another large study that recorded eating habits of 135,000 adults in 18 countries for more than seven years on average, researchers found participants with higher intakes of fats and lower intakes of carbohydrates faired better on the health front. As a result the researchers encourage a diet rich in fruits, beans, seeds, vegetables, and fats, yet low in refined carbohydrates and sugars. Time to add garbanzo beans, avocadoes and chia seeds to your grocery list, if you haven’t already. 🙂
3. Cut back on sugar.
We are pretty sure you’ve heard about the downside of sugar by now. It’s true—sugar is not so great for us. Notably, in relation to flu prevention eating or drinking too much sugar can suppress the body’s immune response. In fact, it can hinder the effectiveness of your white blood cells to fight bacteria for up to 4–6 hours. This is because sugar cells actually resemble the cell structure of Vitamin C. White blood cells rely on Vitamin C to help fight bacteria. But when sugar is present, white blood cells can mistake sugar molecules for Vitamin C cells. When this happens, it negates the fighting capabilities of white blood cells. While cutting out sugar entirely can be tricky, definitely avoid it if you’re starting to feel run down.
4. Antioxidants and Vitamin C.
Your mom told you to take Vitamin C... and she was right. Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system because of its antioxidant properties. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C is particularly potent helping the body fight off free radicals, those pesky molecules that wreak havoc on the immune system. Without the presence of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, free radicals can create a pathway to disease. Think of Vitamin C like a super hero fighting off the bad guys, including colds and flu. And even if you get a cold, don’t stop taking Vitamin C. It’s a good ally in helping to reduce the length and intensity of symptoms should you catch a cold.
5. Take daily vitamins.
Of course, a sure way to get everything you need is to take a daily multivitamin. And boosting immunity is just one good reason to take a multivitamin.
You can get daily vitamins through fruits and veggies, but as we noted above, many of us are not actually eating enough fruits and veggies, for effective flu prevention. When in doubt, a multivitamin is like an insurance policy to make sure you get the flu fighting vitamins and minerals needed to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. A multivitamin can make up for the shortfalls that happen when you don’t get what you need through food.
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