No matter where you’ve matriculated, you’ve probably begun to notice the first signs of the inevitable sick season. Your classmates are sniffling and the sounds layer the lecture halls. Your friends are losing their voices. Your roommate is hacking her lungs up.
And you care about these people, you really do, but you also want them to stay ten feet away from you at all times. Of course, because you can’t, in good conscience, tell them that, you can do all that’s in your power to boost your own immune system by slightly adjusting your diet to include the right supplements. (Pay special attention to the foods that overlap in nutrients!)
1. Vitamin C
There’s been debate surrounding the actual effectiveness of Vitamin C in preventing the common cold; studies show that, for the average person with symptoms, taking Vitamin C provides little or no benefit. However, taking the vitamin as a preventative measure may ameliorate symptoms and/or shorten the sickness’ duration.
Foods: citrus fruits, vegetables (red peppers, kale, broccoli)
Liquids: fruit juice (Naked Juice Power-C Booster)
Boosters/supplements: Vitamin C tablets (Airborne)
Zinc, an essential mineral that is present in many common foods, is integral in the development of white blood cells. Not getting enough of this mineral weakens the immune system, so it’s certainly worth the effort to pay attention.
Foods: beef, spinach, shrimp, seeds (watermelon, pumpkin, flax), oysters
Proteins not only contribute to the health of your skin, hair and nails, but also function as antibodies, which bind to foreign particles, such as viruses and bacteria, for white blood cells to destroy.
If you’re starting to feel a bit under the weather, the amino acid (component of a protein) cysteine, in particular, helps break down mucus in lung tissue. It's perfect for combating inflammation and congestion - if it comes to that!
Foods: beef, turkey breast, soybeans, eggs, grains (oats, couscous)
Liquids: chicken noodle soup, protein shakes
Another way to fortify your immune system is by seeking out antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals, thus reducing your chance of illness in the process. Antioxidants may also reduce the sickness’ duration.
Foods: garlic, fruit (dark grapes, blueberries, cranberries), nuts (walnuts, Brazilian nuts)
Liquids: fruit juice (pomegranate)
While decongestants aren’t necessarily nutrients, per se, they can help stop an incoming cold from taking hold. You may find there to be some natural decongestants that work just as well as your over-the-counter pills or nasal spray. Those drugs lose their effectiveness with prolonged use, after all.
Foods: antibacterial yogurt, spicy foods (chili peppers, wasabi)
Liquids: hot fluids (ginger tea, honey)
Boosters/supplements: echinacea extract
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fatty acids promote blood flow and help with inflammatory substances, which boost your immune system and reduce symptoms. Research has also shown that omega-3s may also reduce anxiety, which is known to weaken immune function.
Foods: beef, fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel), flaxseeds, walnuts, cauliflower
Boosters/supplements: fish oil
This list, while not exhaustive, still contains quite a number of foods to watch out for. However, as a college student living far from home remedies, with limited time and unlimited assignments, you might consider choosing wisely, diet-wise.
Lead Image Credit: Amber Rose Photography via Flickr Creative Commons