Trees highlighted with multicolored red and orange leaves, fields filled with luscious red apples and pumpkins with intricate carvings. The quintessential images of fall resurrect themselves today, the first day of the new season. Although today may not seem different from any other sunny Los Angeles day — it’s incredibly hot and the chances of seeing leaves fall is unlikely anyways — the student body has collectively embraced fall by quite literally “falling” ourselves, in health and wellness. What I’ve found, though, is that a plant-based diet supports a healthy immune system.
The cold bug is rapidly spreading. While the spread of sickness needs to be treated, students’ shared colds can be advantageous to one, in some cases at least. Say you’re in a library and bitterly realize you left your headphones at home. Don’t you worry — your study playlist on Spotify will be copiously replaced by the plethora of sniffles and sneezes coming from the sickly students around you. When you have snifflers surrounding you on all sides, who needs headphones! And I mean come on, if you don’t have a cold yet are you even stressing about school enough? Diminishing your health can serve as a social aid. Don’t know what to talk about? Start the conversation zealously complaining about your cold and everyone will join in!
So, why is there a trend in weakened immune systems? Well, I don’t know, maybe because we attend a University with intrinsically motivated students who devote their waking and sleeping hours to academia, applying for internships and saving the world (in one way or another). But particularly during this fifth week of the semester, the stress caused by midterms and the overall buildup of courses hasn’t boded well with overly involved overachievers.
An easy way out of the cold-rut could involve prioritizing sleep over everything and failing your midterms. I propose a solution of moderation. While prioritizing sleep is one of the important components of regaining back your vitality, what you consume need not be neglected. Now, I am no nutritionist, but speaking from personal experience and hours upon hours of research, following a plant-based diet will help you bounce back in record time.
Here are the cold quelling foods necessary for health restoration:
Fruits and Veggies — Hello Vitamin C!
Pretty much all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, an essential antioxidant for boosting immunity. Fruits and vegetables with high amounts of vitamin C like oranges, mangoes, grapefruit and brussel sprouts. A cup of chopped red bell peppers surprisingly contains “nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange — 190 mg” according to Health.com. Green bell peppers contain a little less vitamin C, but a cup still delivers 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. If you’re on a meal plan, you’re in luck, because the salad bars are always stacked with a multitude of fruits and vegetables. On campus, go produce crazy at the weekly Farmers Market, purchase fresh fruit at Seeds, try vegan friendly salads at Lemonade or the palatable kale salad (usually contains red peppers!) at the Dean’s List Cafe. Off campus, Ralph’s conveniently offers relatively affordable produce.
Liquids — Stay Hydrated!
Emptying your body of toxins is easy when you’re sipping on juices, smoothies, tea, citrus juices, soups, boba, fruit-infused water, water and warm lemon juice. While you may rely on coffee to caffeinate, it’s best to avoid this dehydrating drink. You’ll need all the rest you can get, anyways, and that won’t be easy to accomplish when you attempt to sleep with your eyes open. Nekter Juice Bar and the food trucks Amazebowls and Nature’s Brew offer refreshing juices, smoothies, and acai bowls (save for Nature’s Brew). Opt in for kale if this leafy green isn’t already in your drink. Packed with 80.4 mg of vitamin C, twice your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, and seven times the recommended amount of vitamin K, in just one cup kale is sure to save you from your sniffles. Stop by any coffee shop — Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Ground Zero to name a few for green tea (packed with antioxidants), or any other hot, dairy-free drink! Also, The Dean’s List Cafe offers a refreshing thai tea made vegan when ordered with almond or soy milk.
Anything Spicy — Break A Sweat!
My refrigerator is always loaded with kimchee, spicy chili sauce, red pepper paste, and daikon. Growing up in a semi-Korean household, I learned to relish the uncomfortable experience that comes from sweating from ridiculously spicy food that tantalizes your throat. There are tons of spicy foods available on and off campus at places like Gogi Korean Grill — add spicy cucumber and hot sauce to your order — Chipotle — an animal friendly bowl/burrito topped with pico de gallo and salsa — and Seeds — packaged cucumber avocado rolls with ginger and wasabi. Garlic, onion, jalapeno peppers, ginger are great garnishes for any dish. Sriracha, tapatio and any other hot sauce, and spices, such as coriander and cumin, can easily be implemented into your meal. You can top pretty much anything with sriracha and luckily, the dining halls provide this staple sauce.
With adequate sleep and nutrition, getting better should be a breeze. You won’t even need to rely on OTC pills, which tend to have negative side effects and may have been tested on animals. Remember that it’s okay to take a break from your responsibilities, and enjoy indulging in what makes you happy. Take a few to meditate, socialize, read a book, listen to music (or sniffles), practice a sport, art form or whatever it is that you’re passionate about!
And who knows, maybe after you conquer your cold, you’ll realize that it isn’t so hard to maintain a plant-based diet.
Tessa Nesis is a sophomore majoring in NGOs and social change. Her column, “The Sentient Bean,” runs on Thursdays.