Strengthening your immune system can help your body fight off viruses and illnesses. A stronger immune system can also lessen the severity and duration of your symptoms if you do get sick. There are a lot of key factors that play a role in improving or lowering your immune system. These factors include: diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management and gut health. Today I am going to discuss diet.
HERE ARE SOME HEALTHY FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM:
- Choose a healthy, balanced diet. Consume:
- at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- lean proteins like grilled chicken
- fatty fish such as salmon several times per week
- whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice
- healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and all-natural nut butters
- water throughout the day – at least 8 glasses, most likely you will need more
- Choose foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight free radicals which damage our immune system. The best way to get all of your antioxidants is to eat all of the different colors of the rainbow. Here are some examples of different colors of fruits and vegetables:
- Red: tomatoes and raspberries
- Orange: orange bell pepper and clementines
- Yellow: yellow bell pepper and pineapple
- Green: broccoli and kiwi
- Blue/Purple: eggplant and blueberries
- Vitamin E also has powerful anti0xidant properties. To get your fill of vitamin E, choose these foods:
- wheat germ
- oils: wheat germ, grape seed, safflower and rice brain
- almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts
- all-natural almond and peanut butter
- spinach, chard, butternut squash, beet greens
- Zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production of immune cells. The National Institutes of Health caution that even mildly low levels can impair your immune system. Foods rich in zinc include:
- shellfish (especially oysters)
- meat, especially beef
- nuts and seeds (hemp seeds highest)
- dairy including yogurt, milk and cheese
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids are an essential fatty acid that can help lower inflammation in the body. They can improve immune function, blood sugar control, cholesterol, gut and neurological health. Foods rich in these fatty acids include:
- flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemps seeds
- flaxseeds need to be ground as needed and stored in freezer
- fatty fish: mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, trout, herring
- oysters and shrimp
- anchovies and sardines
- seaweed and algae
- flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemps seeds
- Carotenoids are an antioxidant that when consumed, are converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system. Foods rich in carotenoids include:
- sweet potatoes
***Cooking with fresh herbs and spices such as GINGER, TUMERIC AND GARLIC can also help boost your immune system.
Since we are all stuck at home due to the Corona virus, now is the perfect time to take advantage of trying new recipes. Get the entire family involved meal planning, prepping and cooking! Here are some tips to get the healthy foods above into your meals:
- Since you are limiting trips to the grocery store, buy in bulk when you are there.
- Always make a list to bring to the store so you can get in and out quickly.
- Try grocery delivery – almost all of the chains are offering that option.
- Buy frozen vegetables and fruits along with fresh. Frozen are just as healthy and last longer.
- Make a big pot of soup or stew that you can freeze. For example: a hearty soup of vegetables, grains, and chicken; beef stew with potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and garlic; lentil soup with carrots, garlic, celery, spinach and onions.
- You could also make a casserole with whole grain pasta, chicken sausage, vegetables and tomato sauce or a taco casserole with ground turkey, peppers, onions, beans cheese and top with fresh salsa and avocado.
- Have breakfast for dinner and make an egg casserole with canadian bacon, spinach, onions, tomatoes, peppers and cheese.
- There are a lot of options that you can make for the entire family and freeze leftovers.
- Make healthy smoothies with the kids and add ground flax seed or chia seeds to boost the nutrition!
DO I NEED TO TAKE ANY VITAMINS OR SUPPLEMENTS IN ADDITION TO EATING HEALTHY?
We all used to get the nutrition we needed from eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately today, due to chemical and pesticide exposure, our soil is deplete of these nutrients are bodies need. I would still recommend talking to me or another health care provider before deciding if a vitamin, mineral or supplement is right for you. They are not all created equal and we all have different needs. I also recommend micronutrient testing to pinpoint which vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you might be deficient or low in. I can think provide individual recommendations to meet your specific needs and help you improve your immune health.
KNOW YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS. This is a popular topic today because of the growing research on its benefit in our immune, bone/teeth, neurological and gut health. It can also help protect us against a variety of cancers. Unfortunately our food does not provide enough vitamin D. The best source is from the sun – if you live in a cooler climate or have a darker skin tone, you will not absorb enough vitamin D. Even if you live in a warm climate, sun screen prevents the absorption of this vitamin. Most people need to supplement with it. From a functional standpoint, it is recommended you take at least 1,000 units per day to prevent chronic disease and illness.
Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea can also be immune boosting supplements!
Email me if you have any questions or concerns!