The weather outside is frightful, which means we’re all cooped up inside, sharing one another’s germs. Don’t wait until you’re already sick! Start fighting for your immune system now with these six nutrients recommended by registered dietician Marie Scioscia of The Ailey School.
#1 Beta-carotene: Any fruit or vegetable that’s yellow or orange contains beta-carotene. Throw some dried apricots in your dance bag for a sweet after-school snack, or munch on some baby carrots. While there’s no official Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), a handful of dried apricots or baby carrots will give you all you need.
#2 Vitamin C: It’s in most fruits and vegetables, such as red bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries. Citrus is delicious in the winter, so consider grabbing an orange. The RDA is roughly 3/4 cup of orange juice or 1 orange. If veggies are your preference, 1/2 cup of red bell pepper will do the trick.
#3 Vitamin E: It’s found in all oils and nuts. Try 2 to 3 ounces of almonds as a midday pick-me-up, or toss 1 ounce of almonds in a salad dressed with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and a vinegar of your choice.
#4 Zinc: Many proteins—including beef, poultry and seafood—are good sources of zinc. Vegetarians should reach for beans, nuts and fortified cereals. The RDA is equivalent to 3 to 4 ounces of beef or crabmeat or 1 1/2 cups of baked beans.
Scioscia says: “Strict vegetarians require up to 50 percent more zinc because their bodies absorb less zinc when they eat lots of plant fibers. But don’t overdo it! Consuming more than 30 milligrams of zinc (some zinc supplements contain 50 milligrams) can actually suppress your immune system.”
#6 Quercetin: It’s found in onions and garlic, so consider tossing up a delicious veggie stir-fry. While there’s no official RDA, Scioscia recommends getting quercetin from food sources rather than supplements, which probably contain too high a dosage.
Scioscia says: “Less is more when it comes to immune support. It’s all about having variety in your diet and not overdoing it on one particular food or vitamin supplement.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Our intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of our entire bodies! A healthy gut is key to overall health. And digestive health starts with regularly scheduled, wholesome meals. “Because dancers are always on the go, they can’t always eat when their bodies need it. Therefore, it’s common for them to have digestive hiccups,” says registered dietician Marie Scioscia. She recommends taking the probiotic supplement Lactobacillus acidophilus every day for digestion. Try Nature Made’s acidophilus daily tablets.
January is a month of fresh starts, but too much resolving can be counterproductive. Dr. Linda Hamilton, a performance psychologist with New York City Ballet who specializes in wellness, offers her advice on how best to approach the New Year’s resolution.
Be positive. A New Year’s resolution shouldn’t be about punishing yourself for last year’s mistakes. Instead, it should be about looking forward, and thinking constructively about the changes you want to see in the coming year.
Don’t make too many. The more you make, the harder it’ll be to follow through, so pick just a couple of goals to focus on. Have a plan. Don’t expect to completely transform your lifestyle on January 1. “Change has a number of stages,” says Hamilton. “You must acknowledge the problem, set up a plan and then start working.”
Be patient. “Change is not an on/off switch,” Hamilton says. More than likely, you’ll have a couple of lapses. The key is to remember that’s a normal part of the process. Nobody’s perfect!
“C” OVERLOAD! When you feel a cold coming on, you might reach for Emergen-C. But this popular supplement contains 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C—more than 10 times the recommended daily amount! Vitamin C overload can cause stomach distress and kidney stones, so next time, grab an orange instead.
All photos iStock unless otherwise specified.