The kids have gone back to school so I have seen an uptick of people with colds in the past couple of weeks. Both of my kids have just had colds and typically right after they get sick, I do. It’s called the common cold for a reason, right? For the past few days, I have had a sore throat so I have been doing my best to fight it off. I have talked about some remedies you can use here and here
It seems that not as many people get sick in the summer, even with all the barbeques. Maybe there aren’t as many sweets or maybe we are protected by the vitamin D we are getting from the sun. It may be a combination of things, but what I want to talk about today is what you can do when you start to feel like you are getting sick or if you actually do get sick how to shorten the duration. This is not a time to slack off on your healthy eating, this is when you need to kick it up a notch.
Naturally when we feel bad, we go to our comfort foods…these foods usually consist of sweets and fried foods. You can use natural treatments like Vitamin C and Zinc, maybe even increase vitamin A and believe me I use everything in my toolbox to combat a cold! But I want to talk to you today about diet. Taking one item out of your diet may boost your immune system so you either don’t get sick or you are more resilient when you do.
What item am I talking about? Sugar! When your throat hurts ice cream feels good right? It soothes because it’s cold, but eating sugar is like taking down your defense system and not just for a few minutes, but a few hours! There are no nutrients in sugar, in fact consuming sugar makes the body use its own stores. You definitely don’t need this when you’re feeling under the weather. Your white blood cells are your guards, they need to be in tip top shape to go around your body and look for invaders, and sugar weakens them. So even on a daily basis, you want to limit the amount of sugar you consume, but when you feel sick it is best to avoid it.
Where do we find sugar? Pretty much EVERYWHERE! When I talk about sugar most people think of white granulated sugar, but if you buy any processed carbohydrate like bread, pasta, pizza, soda, ketchup, dips, spreads, processed meats (like lunch meats), “whole grain” cereals, yogurt. You know the comfort foods I was talking about earlier! These are typically low in fiber and digest really quickly in your body, they also contain added sugars which increase your sugar intake. They also deplete your nutrient stores which are vital when you get sick. I’m not as concerned about natural sugars because they contain nutrients and fiber that actually help you feel better.
A good way to look at illness is as part of your body’s detoxification system. Your body is taking out some trash and making an inhospitable environment for a virus or bacteria. Instead of turning to comfort foods, support your body, look to your fruits and vegetables or maybe create some new comfort foods. I like to make smoothies, but I increase the greens and the fruits that are high in vitamin C. Leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard mixed with oranges maybe some kiwi, add some pumpkin seeds and this will increase the zinc.
Taking the above measures, eating right and supplementing when appropriate may not completely deter an illness, but it can make it more bearable and decrease the amount of time you are sick.
Lately I have been getting a lot of calls from people who want to transition to either healthier eating or a vegan diet because they have seen a documentary or read about something they didn’t like in the industry. I think this is great because anytime we make positive dietary changes, we are not only helping ourselves with better health, but we are also helping the planet and the animals.
A good place to start is to evaluate what you are currently eating. Let’s start with processed foods, personally I try to buy as little packaged food as possible, but when I do I make sure that I’m buying the best quality I can; it’s a process and I want to help you with that. How do I do that? I read the labels on the package.
I am a big proponent of reading labels, not in the traditional sense of reading them but to really find out what’s in the product. Typically we are told to use the nutrition facts label because it is government regulated, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% true. The nutrition facts label can be deceptive, manufacturers can play with the numbers so the product is perceived the way they want it to be…to follow the trends; gluten free, sugar free, low cholesterol.
If you are only looking at the nutrition facts box, you are only getting half the story. For instance a manufacturer can put 0 g of sugar on the nutrition facts label even though sugar is listed in two or three places in the ingredients. How is this possible? As long as there is .5 g or less per serving, they can put 0 g. So for each of those sugars, each one has .5 g or less per serving, this can wind up being a lot of sugar.
So I just mentioned per serving. There is a difference between serving size and portion size. This is one thing I do recommend looking at because the serving size is a set amount like ½ cup whereas a portion size is what we serve ourselves which is typically double or triple of the serving size. So make sure to check the serving size on the top of the nutrition facts label.
Use the nutrition facts label as a tool to help guide you but don’t use it by itself, consult the ingredients list too. This is where you will find out more information as to what is in the product. Using the two together will give you a more complete picture.
What you want to look for is a small list of ingredients, maybe five to six ingredients with names you can pronounce. The ingredients are listed in descending order, so the first ingredient is usually the largest amount and the last ingredient is the smallest.
So how do you put this into practice? Start at home, pull out those cereal boxes, I’m not a fan of these but let’s look at it as an example. Look at the ingredients, how long is the list, can you name all of them? Do you know what each ingredient is? Are there preservatives that you’re not quite sure about? How many sugars are there that you can recognize? Are there genetically modified ingredients? Are there food colors?
Start with this one food, assess it and next time you go shopping look for a better alternative. Do this for all of your processed foods and each time dig a little deeper. Eventually, you will get to a place where there is less and less processed foods and more foods in their natural state in your shopping cart. It’s a process, you can go as fast or slow as you like.