Let’s face it, besides the bitter cold and snow we can experience during the winter season at Notre Dame, the cold and flu season that accompanies it is even more unwelcome. So can orange juice be helpful in battling these ailments, or are there better strategies?
Most people reach for orange juice because it is a known high vitamin C food. A typical cup has about 80 mg (that’s over 100% of the recommended dietary allowance) and vitamin C is well known for being a powerful immune system booster. So from that standpoint, orange juice seems like the perfect beverage this time of year. However, what’s lurking in orange juice, and any juices for that matter, is a substance that most of us consume way too much of, AND actually weakens our immune system. Any guesses? If you said sugar, pat yourself on the back.
The research on the dangers of sugar in our diets has exploded. We now know sugar in our diets is linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We also know that sugar suppresses the immune system; something we want to avoid as we try to avoid colds and flu this winter. In fact, a glass of orange juice has about 36 grams of carbohydrates, or 9 teaspoons of sugar. This is just shy of the 39 grams of carbs you’d find in a glass of soda. In fact, this is the reason many of us say that fruit juices are just glorified soft drinks.
So with orange juice out of the running, what can you eat or do to help your immune system this winter? Feel free to eat oranges, the fiber in oranges protect us from the sugar. Look to other high vitamin C foods as well such as: green peppers, cantaloupe, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables. Garlic is wonderful for our immune systems, so eat as much as you can stand. Try to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, a proven immune system winner. Drink plenty of tea and water. In addition, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night and wash your hands frequently throughout the day. I’d also advise taking a vitamin D supplement throughout fall and winter (2000 to 4000 IU daily).