You know those drug advertisements for “aching pain, sniffling and sneezing”? While I’m not completely averse to the intermittent use of over-the-counter cold, flu or antihistamine products to control discomfort, fighting your symptoms with good food is under-rated. Most often cold and allergy symptoms are associated with increased amounts of inflammation in your body – which causes your immune system to kick into overdrive.
Below are a few food tips that reduce inflammation and can help to improve your overall well-being:
1. Start by reducing the amount of pre-packaged or preservative-laden foods you eat. These types of foods are often high in sodium or hidden sugar – both causes of inflammation in your body. Check out the nutrition label the next time you buy pre-packaged food and see what percent of your recommended daily allowance is represented by sodium and/or sugar. Then look at the number of ingredients that have words you can’t pronounce. Many of those can trigger an inflammatory reaction.
2. Drink tea: steam from the tea can open up your nasal passages. Moreover, tea contains “polyphenols” which are a plant-based form of antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation.
3. Eat soups that contain antioxidant rich vegetables, e.g., carrots, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and kale. These all contain vitamins that can help to ease respiratory allergy symptoms.
4. Add fruits to your salads or yogurt: berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) cherries, and grapes contain an antioxidant (quercetin) that helps to prevent the release of histamines.
5. Eat foods that are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids: salmon is usually the go-to foods one hears about in this category. But any “fatty fish” will do – e.g. sardines, mackerel, or tuna. You might be surprised to know that “grass-fed” beef also contains some Omega 3s. The differences between grass-fed and corn-fed beef are significant (and worthy of a separate article), but suffice it to say that when possible, get your Omega-3s from whole, real food sources…that means local farm-raised, grass fed beef and wild-caught seafood. Other easy Omega 3 additions include walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
6. Include “probiotics”: these are healthy bacteria that help to strengthen the immune system. One of my favourites is sauerkraut…put that on a sandwich at lunch. You can also find probiotics in yogurt or kefir.
Including these foods in your diet will not only boost your immune system and reduce inflammation, it will improve your overall sense of wellness by reducing joint pain, improving your mood, and stabilizing your blood sugars. So, get off the pills and get onto some fairly simple, natural food remedies to help your body help itself.