Test your immunity savvy

PCC Taste | September 2013

washing hands

September is about fresh starts, and that means a fresh set of germs to battle as cold and flu season begins. We asked PCC Nutrition Educator Marilyn Walls for advice, from simple to life-changing, that will help you become an immunity all-star.

Novice

  • Wash your hands correctly. We hear it so often it seems trite. But thorough hand washing with hot water and soap for 20 seconds (hint: two rounds of "Happy Birthday") is critical to help avoid getting sick and spreading germs.
  • Eat a rainbow. Aim for 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day in a variety of vibrant colors (think berries, avocados, crucifers, cantaloupe, squash, beets and plums) to obtain the many vitamins and antioxidants your body needs for optimal balance. Think stir-fries, salads, stews and smoothies.
  • Take echinacea. Jump-start your immune system as soon as cold symptoms arrive with this herbal supplement. While research into its effectiveness remains inconclusive, many of our health and body care experts swear by it to shorten the length of colds. For best results, be sure to follow directions when you take this remedy.

Intermediate

  • Get your daily probiotics. These beneficial bacteria found in fermented/cultured foods help ease digestion, which in turn helps the immune system stay strong. Need another reason to eat fruits and vegetables? They fuel these good bacteria.
  • Get adequate vitamin D. It's best known as essential for good bone health, but vitamin D also helps activate our immune systems. Since sun exposure is the primary way our bodies synthesize this vitamin, consider taking a supplement during the Northwest's cloudiest months.
  • Eat with the seasons. Produce picked at its peak of ripeness typically offers the nutrients we need most at the time. Fall squash and root vegetables boast high levels of beta carotene and vitamin C to boost our immune systems during cold and flu season.
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Immunity all-star

  • Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is how the body heals itself. But chronic inflammation is the root of many serious illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Keep inflammation at bay by limiting added sugars and processed foods, which overtax the immune system.
  • Try CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 is used by the body to transform food into energy. This essential antioxidant enables cells to function and helps with heart health and cholesterol management. Find this supplement in our health and body care department.
  • Be in balance. Why is this "simple" advice in the all-star category? Because we recognize it can be the most challenging to accomplish. Strive for adequate rest. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat whole foods and keep hydrated. Help your body help itself.

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