Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

By Michelle M. Dillon, ND

vegetablesoupStatistics show that more people come down with a cold around the holiday season than any other season. Here are three ways we can stay healthy during the holidays:

1. Pick the right foods to support your immune system

When feeling under the weather, it is of extreme importance to support your immune system by eating the right foods; foods that are high in phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Studies show that eating 8-13 servings of vegetables and fruits a day supports important markers of proper immune function. Many of us do not eat this amount of vegetables or fruits resulting in a weakened immune system which can lead to sickness.

Just as important as it is to eat the right foods, it’s also important to avoid foods that may decrease the effectiveness of your immune system. Foods to avoid when you are feeling under the weather or under a lot of stress include: SUGAR, caffeine, and fatty, fried foods. These foods reek havoc on your immune system weakening it’s abilities to protect your body from the flu and cold season.

During the holiday season it is especially tempting to indulge in the many sweets and sugar filled desserts and candies. However many of us do not realize how this effects our body and our immune system. Many studies show that even one gram of sugar can lower one’s immune system for five hours. Imagine what 26 grams of sugar from a can of soda does to your body! Therefore it is very important, when feeling under the weather, to avoid sugar and anything that contains a food additive ending in –ose.

Another unknown culprit is fried foods found in fast food restaurants or anything southern and smothered. It takes a lot of energy from your digestive system to break down these foods. This energy should be used to fight the flu or cold you have instead of using it to digest this heavy meal. So while sick you should focus on easy to digest foods such as steamed vegetables and rice, clear soups, and easy to digest proteins like fish and lean meats.

2. Believe in the Power of Positive Thinking

Positive thinking also plays a large role on immune health. A study supported by the at the American Psychological Association on how optimism is associated with immune function, showed that optimism is associated with high T cell count and high natural killer cell count. This means that just having a sunnier view on things actually results in a stronger more efficient immune system. They found that those people known to be more optimistic had fewer illnesses compared to their pessimist counterparts. “Laughter is such a powerful medicine, says Dr. Dillon. When my patients are sick, I advise watching comedies.”

3. Eat Immune Strengthening Soup

Here is a recipe to help fortify your body during the hectic holiday season.

Ingredients:

2tsp. Toasted sesame oil
1 chopped onion
3-5 cloves of garlic
2-3 pieces of burdock
1 piece of ginger
1-2 organic reishi mushrooms, crumbled
½-1 cup of cubed tofu
2 cups of chopped vegetables of choice (carrots, celery, beet tops, greens, cabbage, kale, turnips, etc).

Saute: the onion, cloves of garlic, ginger, in the sesame oil for 4-5 minutes until cooked. Add the remaining ingredients and cover allowing everything to simmer.
Add: 8 cups of spring or purified water and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
Whisk: 2-3 tablespoons of miso into a small amount of water and then add to the soup.

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