5 foods that strengthen your immune system while traveling

 In Health, Travel Tips

You’re about to go on a trip with your family, and you want to make sure you stay healthy. A candy bar might seem like a great idea at the time, but when your blood sugar crashes half an hour later, you’re going to feel lousy. That bag of chips contains a ton of salt, which will cause you to get thirsty, when you’re already dehydrated from flying. So what to do instead? Eating healthy food while on the road doesn’t have to be a burden, no matter where you are in the world. Instead of reaching for the easy-to-grab junk food, try packing or buying these snacks that will help strengthen your immune system. All are healthy, kid-friendly and easy to pack.

Oranges

Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which is important in supporting immune function. While taking megadoses of vitamin C in a pill has been shown in studies not to prevent colds (though it does reduce the severity of the symptoms), a deficiency of vitamin C has been strongly linked to poor immune function. And unlike some vitamins, your body doesn’t really store vitamin C, so you need to get enough every day. Bring along some oranges, tangerines or grapefruit for an easy, vitamin C-rich snack. Also, since they have a thick peel, you won’t have to worry as much about infection if you buy them in a developing country; just clean the outside before peeling, and they’re safe to eat.

Other great sources of vitamin C include cantaloupe, pineapple and kiwifruit. If you’re in a country where it’s safe to eat fresh fruit, load up at breakfast!

Walnuts

These potent little crunchers are packed with nutrients, including vitamin E (a fat-soluble vitamin needed for immune function), vitamin B6 (needed for making healthy white blood cells) and selenium (a trace mineral needed for making antibodies and healthy blood cells). They also contain tons of healthy fats and protein, making them a satiating snack. Best of all, they’re easy to throw in your bag without worrying about them getting squished. Other nuts, such as almonds, are also great choices for the same reasons; feel free to grab whatever nuts they have at the concession stand.

While raw nuts are preferable because roasting can break down their fatty acids, they can also go rancid, so check carefully for freshness before buying if you’re choosing raw. In the developing world, choose roasted nuts to ensure food safety.

Carrots

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is best known for promoting healthy eyesight, but is also shown to be key in fighting off infections. It comes in the form of beta-carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor that the body converts to the active vitamin as needed. It’s best to buy whole carrots and cut them up yourself (or just eat them whole, after washing!), because the skin of the carrot helps keep it fresh and you want to leave it on as long as possible; but if the little bags of peeled “baby carrots” are all that’s available, go for those.  They’ll still provide you with plenty of nutrition. If you’re in the developing world, the safest bet is to eat your carrots cooked; alternatively, you could clean and then peel them yourself, though it could be difficult to prevent contamination.

Strawberries

These delicious fruits are a little-known source of vitamin C. In fact, there’s more vitamin C in a cup of strawberries than there is in an orange. In addition, berries of all kinds contain a large number of compounds that promote optimal health, including good immune function. And it’s easy to get kids to eat them!

Don’t eat fresh strawberries if the local water isn’t safe to drink; they’re thin-skinned and will be difficult to adequately clean.

Eggs

Surprising those who spent years making egg-white omelets for their health, whole eggs have been looking healthy in recent studies. The cholesterol in egg yolks has been shown not to raise one’s blood cholesterol or risk of heart attack. Furthermore, the yolk is packed with a variety of trace minerals, as well as vitamin D (a key immune system player) and vitamin B12 (important for nervous system functioning). You can hard-boil them and bring them on the plane as a snack (you’ll need an ice pack to keep them fresh), and they’re easy to buy and cook, or to find at restaurants or food carts, and will keep you fuller longer. Don’t overdo it; just an egg or two a day is plenty.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of healthy foods. Cut-up broccoli or bell peppers are also a great snack for the plane, and any type of berry is a wonderful and very healthy choice. Keep lots of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds around as snacks, so you won’t have to reach for the chips and candy!

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  • Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    Eating healthy always seems to be a challenge while traveling, especially when we seem to have every meal at a restaurant. Thanks for suggesting key foods to look for as well as having safety suggestions for developing countries. I’m always in the mood for strawberries!

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