You know the telltale signs.  That scratchy throat, increased fatigue or congestion that tells you that a cold is coming.  A week of general crumminess feels inevitable.  But as a health coach, I am always looking for ways to beat the odds with healthy eating.

You can take charge and circumvent, or at lease reduce the length and strength of that cold.  The secret is to boost your immune system.  Seriously boost it – quickly.

Immunity Boosting Benefits of Vitamin A

The medical field has known that Vitamin A is one of the best immune system boosters around.  Vitamin A is so powerful, it has been credited with significantly protecting against some of the immune-suppressing effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

How does Vitamin A stimulate the immune system?  Possibly by promoting the growth of the thymus gland, enhancing the function of white blood cells, and having anti-viral activity.  It also supports the function of the epithelial and mucosal tissues found in the lungs and GI tract – your immune system’s first line of defense.

Plant Sources of Vitamin A (Carotenoids)

The best way to get your Vitamin A is through food sources.  Beta-carotene turns into Vitamin A, so look for fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, like cantaloupe.  A singe cup of cantaloupe contains about 3000 mcg of it.

Lightly cooking certain vegetables actually improves the availability of carotenoids.  Canned tomatoes, and lightly steamed carrots and spinach are a good option.   Also high in catotenoids are sweet potatoes, squash,  and apricots.  An easy way to get these foods in your diet when you feel a cold coming on, is in a soup.  But you probably don’t feel like cooking.  Fortunately, Pacific Natural Foods makes delicious, creamy organic tomato, butternut squash and roasted red pepper soups that come in healthy, aseptic cartons.

While orange colored fruits and vegetables are a tell-tale sign of carotenoids, don’t forget dark leafy greens, especially spinach, kale and collard greens, which are high in beta-carotene.

Improve Your Vitamin A Absorption

Vitamin A is fat soluble, and zinc is also required in order to properly absorb and utilize Vitamin A.  So make sure you have some healthy fats in your diet, and consider supplementing with zinc (also shown to shorten the length of a cold.)  Try eating a spinach salad with a lemon and olive oil salad dressing, or a smoothie made with coconut oil, to ensure you are getting the full benefits.

Cold season is hard to avoid, but by boosting your immune system you just might avoid it, or at least reduce the impact on your overall health.

What healthy foods do you reach for when you feel a cold coming on?