Stay Healthy (and fit) this Holiday Season

There’s more to worry about than putting on a few extra pounds this holiday season.

Or what you’re going to buy your impossible to buy for in-laws. We’re talking about your immune system.

Cold weather, travel, extra time spent indoors, less sunlight, the stress of the holidays – they all take a toll on your body and its immune system. Throw in a ton of foods that tend to be high in taste but low in nutrition, and most people are primed to catch some seasonal illness.

However, while usually a downfall, that last point about food can help you if you plan right. Here’s how.

Those darn fruits and veggies

Yes, you’ll no doubt be mocked a bit for passing on the mashed potatoes and reaching for a helping of the green stuff. You might even get teased for having them on the same plate as the stuffing.

However, your body will thank you.

What they lack in taste, they more than make up for in vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in vitamins C, A, and D, all of which contain strong antioxidants to help fight off infection and boost your immune system. Of course, citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges are immune-boosting no-brainers. But bell peppers (which have twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruits), broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, and leafy greens (like spinach, kale, or Swiss chard) can play a significant role, too.

Protein up

Every cell in the human body contains protein, and your body needs protein in your diet to help it repair cells and make new ones. So not only does protein help strengthen antibodies and immune system cells to fight viral and bacterial infections, but they also help create more. Consider it like adding reinforcements to the battle.

Obviously, high-protein meats like turkey, chicken, and beef are likely to be on the holiday table, but maybe you’ll switch it up and add a wild salmon this year, too. And if meat isn’t your thing, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, or beans can fuel these antibodies and your immunity.

Hydrate!

Sorry, spiked eggnog does not count as proper hydration. This winter, focus on drinking extra water. Not only will it curb your appetite for sweets, but it’s essential if you get sick, as we tend to lose more fluids when we’re unhealthy as your body uses more resources to fight the bug.

Tea is another excellent way to consume fluids if water is too boring. Whether you choose green, black, or chai—ahem, unsweetened, please—you’ll reap the immune-boosting benefits.

Reinforcements

Diet is critical to your immune system, but if you want to boost it even more, here are some tips:

  • Sleep: Few things are more beneficial to your health than a good night’s rest, especially with all the added stress.
  • Exercise: It promotes circulation, which benefits your immune system. Even a walk after a big meal will help.

Supplements: Herbs like echinacea have long been taken as immune-system supporters. And multivitamins (especially those high in Vitamin C and zinc) are good to hit any gaps your diet misses.