As the leaves change color and temperatures drop, many of us prepare for the inevitable arrival of cold and flu season. But what if I told you that one of the major culprits behind those seasonal sniffles and sneezes might be hiding in your pantry? Yes, it’s sugar. Think about it, cold and flu season coincides with the time of the year we eat the most sugar. It starts at the end of October and goes straight through to the New Year. That sweet delight we all love can have a not-so-sweet impact on our immune systems. In this blog, we’ll explore the link between sugar and weakened immunity and provide you with three delicious, sugar-free alternatives to popular sugary foods.
The Sugar-Immunity Connection:
Sugar is a tricky ingredient. While it pleases our taste buds, it can wreak havoc on our immune systems. Excessive sugar consumption has been shown to suppress immune function, making us more susceptible to infections during the cold and flu season. It does this by inhibiting the ability of white blood cells to fend off bacteria and viruses effectively. So, if you’re looking to stay healthy and fend off the seasonal bugs, it might be time to rethink your sugar intake.
3 Healthier Alternatives:
1. Fall Candy Alternative: Chocolate-Dipped Fruit
- Assorted fruits (bananas, strawberries, and apple slices work well)
- Dark chocolate chips (at least 70% cocoa)
- White chocolate chips
- Lollipop sticks or toothpicks
- Slice the fruits into Fall shapes like leaves or pumpkins.
- Melt the dark chocolate chips in a double boiler.
- Dip each fruit piece into the melted dark chocolate, coating it partially.
- Place the chocolate-covered fruit on a parchment paper-lined tray.
- Melt the white chocolate chips and use them to create decorations on the fruits.
- Insert lollipop sticks or toothpicks into the bottom of each fruit piece.
- Let them cool and harden in the fridge before serving.
2. Thanksgiving Dessert Alternative: “Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars”
- 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free specified)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter)
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup protein powder (vanilla or unflavored)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin puree, almond butter, honey, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.
- Add the protein powder and mix until the mixture becomes thick and dough-like.
- Fold in the chopped nuts and dried cranberries.
- Press the mixture into a lined square or rectangular baking dish.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour to set.
- Cut into bars and serve as a healthier Thanksgiving dessert option.
3. Christmas Dessert Alternative: “Festive Greek Yogurt Parfait”
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts)
- 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
- A sprinkle of cinnamon
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)
- In a glass or dessert dish, layer Greek yogurt as the base.
- Add a layer of mixed berries on top of the yogurt.
- Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped nuts over the berries.
- Drizzle honey or maple syrup for sweetness.
- Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor.
- Garnish with fresh mint leaves for a festive touch.
- Repeat the layers if you’re serving in a larger glass.
- Serve chilled and enjoy a healthier, colorful Christmas dessert.
These alternatives provide a healthier twist to traditional Fall festive candy and holiday desserts, making them perfect for those looking to indulge in a more nutritious way.
While cold and flu season may be inevitable, your susceptibility to these seasonal illnesses doesn’t have to be. By reducing your sugar intake and opting for healthier alternatives, you can boost your immune system and fend off those pesky bugs more effectively. So, this year, let’s make less sugar the go-to choice and embrace the season with better health and vitality. Your immune system will thank you!
Sakinah Bunch, ND, INHC
Doctor of Naturopathy
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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