As cold and flu season draws near, it's time to break out all the stops to stay healthy. What's your best defense against infection? It's a healthy immune system. Certain lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, exercising moderately, eating a healthy diet and reducing stress all help your immune system keep cold and flu viruses in check. Even what you drink has an impact. Here are some "super sips" that may help you stay healthy this cold and flu season.
Sipping white tea may help your immune system fight off viruses that cause colds and flu, according to one study. In fact, in this study, a white tea proved better than green tea for fighting bacteria and viruses. Plus, it also helped keep fungi that cause infections from gaining a foothold.
White tea is higher in natural antioxidants than both green tea and black tea so it may offer additional benefits as well. How about the taste? It's lighter than black or green tea and naturally sweet so you can enjoy it without added sugar. It's full of health benefits but free of calories. Who could ask for more?
There's another tea that could help you stay healthy this winter. It comes from a berry that's high in natural flavonoids - the elderberry. Elderberries contain a compound called Sambucus nigra agglutinin that stops the growth of flu viruses including the H1N1 flu virus. Preliminary research shows elderberry extract can reduce flu symptoms if you take it at the time you first feel ill. It also enhances your immune system's ability to fight infection. Keep in mind they used an elderberry extract in this study but you can enjoy elderberries as a hot tea as well.
Ever tried kefir? It's a fermented milk product with a light, creamy texture. It's also a good source of gut-friendly bacteria called probiotics. Why is this important? Seventy-percent of your immune system lies in your gut, and probiotics from sources like kefir keep your gut immunity "primed" and ready to fight off foreign invaders that can make you ill. Sipping kefir during those long winter days could boost your immune function enough to avoid those "yucky" viruses that are going around. You can buy it at most health food stores.
What Not to Drink
If you drink alcohol, sip it in moderation. Heavy drinking can reduce your immune system's ability to fight off cold and flu viruses. Drink no more than one cup of alcohol or wine a day. Avoid drinking sugary soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Research shows drinking the equivalent of two sugar-sweetened soft drinks can suppress white blood cells that fight infection for up to five hours. Sip ice cold water instead to stay hydrated. Make it more sip-worthy by adding fresh fruit slices, herbs or slices of cucumber.
The Bottom Line?
It's important to stay hydrated - but what you drink matters when it comes to helping your immune system fight colds and flu viruses. Skip the soft drinks and sip some of these "better for you" beverages instead - and stay healthier this winter!
Science Daily. " White Tea Beats Green Tea In Fighting Germs"
Journal of International Medical Research April 2004 vol. 32 no. 2 132-140.
J Dairy Res. 2005 May;72(2):195-202.
Ask Dr. Sears. " Harmful Effects of Excess Sugar"