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October 22, 2012

Immunity-Boosting Foods Help Older Adults Fight Colds

With cold season right around the corner, it’'s time for older adults to start building up their body’'s germ-fighting defenses by adding immunity-boosting foods to your diet. Check out a few options here: 

  • Chicken soup may be an old-fashioned cure, but it works. Packing a one-two punch that helps knock out colds, soup broth helps prevent dehydration while the hot liquid helps loosen nasal secretions. A runny nose may be a pain, but it’'s the body’'s way of ridding itself of viruses and bacteria. To speed the process, chop a few hot chilies into your soup.
  • Yogurt contains probiotics, what doctors call “good bacteria,” that don’'t just help keep your digestive tract on track—, they bolster your immune system. Look for products that contain “live and active cultures” and bear the seal of the National Yogurt Association. Kefir and sauerkraut are other sources of probiotics.
  • Green tea is an excellent source of polyphenols, plant antioxidants that boost the immune system. Steep tea for no more than two minutes in hot but not boiling water to obtain the greatest benefit. Feel free to add honey or lemon but avoid milk as milk protein will deactivate the polyphenols.
  • Vitamin D seems to make the immune system work more efficiently. You can increase your body’'s store of vitamin D by taking a vitamin D supplement, drinking vitamin D-fortified milk and juice, adding vitamin D-rich foods like salmon to your diet, and taking a walk in the sunshine. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet or adding supplements to your daily routine. 

Healthcare professionals also recommend getting plenty of sleep to keep your immune system in peak operating condition. Frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also help you avoid catching or spreading cold germs. And don’'t forget your flu shot! 

Cold and flu season go hand-in-hand. Kendal at Oberlin residents should watch for flu clinic announcements. Members of Kendal at Home and Senior Independence should check with their Care Coordinators for information about flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

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Photo: Michael May


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