Friday, March 8, 2013

Cooking in College: Top 10 Tips to Stay Healthy

[If you missed the previous posts in the Cooking in College Series, check out Grocery Shopping 101 and Quick Dinners.] 

My freshman year of college I was constantly fighting off illness. Living in close proximity to so many people, staying up late and drinking seriously took its toll. These days I rarely get sick. I actually just realized that I haven't had a single sick visit to the doctor since college. Considering how often I used to have to go, it's kind of a miracle. 

In addition to eliminating all of those triggers, I’ve really focused on using food to keep me healthy. I love the phrase from author Michael Pollan that a food’s nutritional value is more than a sum of its parts. Nothing can replace the benefits of real food- your body just won’t absorb vitamins and nutrients from a multivitamin or food supplements the same way it does from whole food.

So what makes my Top 10 for staying healthy? A combination of old wives tales and common sense. Five nutritional choices and five healthy practices. These are the things that, based on my own experiences, work for me! In no particular order, 

10. Water: Your body’s cells need to be adequately hydrated in order to fend off infection. I like to think about it like this- if your lips are chapped, the skin is more likely to crack and be susceptible to germs. Get creative- water, tea, watermelon and citrus hydrating.

9. Fruits & Vegetables: I can’t be too specific here because it’s really important to get the whole rainbow to pull in all of the vitamins and antioxidants that you need. If I’m getting sick, I try to focus on orange and green: oranges, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. 

8. Elderberry Syrup: When you feel a cold coming on, take 1 teaspoon, four times each day. I don’t know why it works, but it has worked for me every single time. Sometimes it completely wards off the cold, and the one time I did develop a cold I felt better after one day while everyone else in my office was sick a week.


7. Honey: Honey is great for congestion and coughing. One study found that it helped to alleviate coughing in children better than cough syrup. If you purchase honey that is locally made it can also help to ward off seasonal allergies. Add to hot tea or take it by the spoonful (for coughing).

6. Garlic: I eat a lot of garlic- especially if I feel a cold coming on (Brian is a lucky man). Garlic has been linked to a lowered incidence of cancer, but  you need to chop or crush the cloves to produce the anti-cancer benefits. Chop garlic up at the start of your recipe and let it sit awhile before adding it in to allow the compounds a chance to form. 


5. Exercise: Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is so important. Being overweight puts a strain on your body, so kill two birds with one stone by getting in some cardio and keeping in shape.

4. Don’t Smoke: You’ve heard it all before, but smoking (among other things) causes inflammation which puts your body under stress.

3. Relax: Make time every day to relax or unwind. Easier said than done, but stress can play a major role in your physical well-being. This reminds me to start going to yoga again!

2. Sleep: I need eight hours, but you may need more or less. I know that if I get less than 6 hours of sleep for 2 nights in a row I will get sick without question. Make sleep a MAJOR priority in your life.

1. Wash Your Hands: Every time you get home and when you do laundry (in addition to the usuals) and about twenty other times a day. 

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