No one likes being sick, but as we enter the winter months it becomes an unfortunate reality for most of us. Before you run out in a panic to stock up on Nyquil and Tylenol, take a moment to think of the ways you can prevent sickness in the first place. While Western medicine focuses on treating the problem after it’s happened, the principles of Eastern medicine place prevention as key.
One of the most important tenets of the Eastern philosophy is medicine as food. It’s not uncommon for our busy lifestyles to force us to eat on the fly with little thought involved, but simply selecting nutritious, organic and minimally processed foods can help your immune system rev up in anticipation of the winter months. Here are a few tips on ways to maximize your body’s natural defenses. For more information, check out “Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100,” by Dr. Maoshing Ni, a great book on how nutrition and environment affect our health.
Tip #1: Lunch Should Be Your Biggest Meal
While what you eat is important, when you eat is even more crucial. Studies have shown that eating your heavy protein and fats at breakfast or lunch results in faster weight loss and higher energy levels. Your body burns significantly more calories during the course of the day and needs more fuel at this time then when you’re sleeping. Scale back those dinner portions and you’re eliminating a huge strain on your body to digest all that extra food.
Tip #2: Eat Ginger
Traditionally, ginger is used in Chinese cuisine for its powerful health benefits and strong flavors. While many people know ginger in its refined form as ginger ale, a commonly used treatment for mild nausea, ginger root has even more health benefits. Scientists recognize it specifically for its ability to decrease inflammation, which can cause damage to tissue and wreak havoc on the body. Some also believe the root has cancer fighting capabilities, although though claims are less proven.
Tip #3: Don’t Kill Your Food
In addition to the type of food you select, how you prepare it is crucial. High heat destroys many vital nutrients your body needs, so methods like boiling and deep frying are big no-nos. However, lightly steaming or quickly stir frying a dish can help preserve the integrity of the food, leaving behind more benefits for your body. By delivering denser nutrients to your body, you’re making sure it has all the tools to fight off any nasty colds making their rounds at work or school.
Tip #4: Incorporate Umeboshi Plums
Don’t let the taste fool you—these super foods can help reverse the early signs of a cold with lightening speed. Umeboshi plums, which basically translate to “salt plums” in English, are especially helpful in easing hangover symptoms and reducing nausea because of their alkaline qualities. While no recent research has been done to support potential bacteria fighting capabilities, Eastern medicine certainly supports those benefits. Eat with moderation, though—just a quarter to a half at a time should do it.
Tip #5: Sprinkle on Some Honey
Honey is a natural antibiotic and a better option than refined cane sugar for adding some sweetness to any dish. It is also believed to stop the growth of bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. Not to mention, it’s an incredible immune booster and can even help keep your heart healthy. Look for organic, raw honey in your grocery store and use generously!
While incorporating these foods into your diet may help in fighting off colds, don’t expect to be totally immune to sickness. However, sticking to a cleaner diet and being careful about the foods you eat can help cold symptoms be milder and clear up quicker. How do you treat cold symptoms when you feel them coming on? Do you prefer to avoid the doctor or does a prescription treatment make you feel more comfortable?