Eating for Improved Immunity
It's funny how just 2 months ago, the only time I had ever heard the word 'Corona' was with reference to beer (which I don't even drink) and now its like the 5th word coming out of every person's mouth.
With everyone wearing masks and filled with detrimental fear of getting infected with the infamous Corona Virus, I figured i'd write a post about immunity, what it is, and what you can do to strengthen your body's own, personal system of defense.
I've come with a number of key points, which I consider to be the cornerstones for strong immune systems and healthy bodies.
1. Rely On Fruits & Veg as your Predominant Source of Food
Fruits and Vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients that keep our bodies running smoothly. And more so, the vitamins in fruit and vegetables are way more bio-available to us than those provided by supplements. This means that we can absorb these nutrients much better than through a pill.
Think of your body as a car, the more you take care of it, the less of a chance it'll have of breaking down. Every car has a specific fuel that suits it best. Similarly, your body thrives off of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables (and dare i say that veggies, especially the dark leafy green ones, provide the most bang for your buck).
2. Eat the Rainbow
We all have our favorite fruit and veg that we regularly purchase whenever we go grocery shopping. My personal go-to's are cucumber, tomato, spinach, sweet potato, and cauliflower when choosing veg and always opt for apples, bananas, and blueberries when buying fruit. However, despite it being really easy to stick to routine foods that our families enjoy, our bodies actually benefit from eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Why, you ask? Well, different colored fruit and vegetables offer different varieties of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which have significant healing properties.
For example, red fruit/veg help fight Cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve skin conditions due to the presence of lycopene. Orange and Yellow fruit/veg contain Vitamin C and beta-carotene, which convert to Vitamin A that improves vision and blood circulation. Green fruit/vegetables are some of the healthiest foods for our bodies, especially dark leafy greens, they are high anti-inflammatory and full of Vitamin K. Purple fruit/veg are rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol, known for anti-cancer and strong anti-aging properties. White and brown foods may not be so colorful but are still super important to have. Onions and garlic are rich in prebiotic fibers, broccoli sprouts contain high amounts of sulforaphane, which help us detox and mushrooms are renowned to breast cancer prevention.
The list goes on and on but this key point remains the same: fruits and vegetbales are jam-packed with nutrients and vitamins all of which serve a specific function and purpose to our overall health and immune strength. Eat a variety to protect yourself from any unwanted illnesses.
3. Eat cooked and easily digestible foods
This is a philosophy that comes from Ayurveda, a traditional and holistic Indian healing modality. Science has proven that at least 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. And according to ayurveda, the best way to keep our gut happy is to eat balanced meals that are easily digestible. Cooked foods are often much easier to break down. Plus, another tip from me, don't skimp on the chewing. Chewing helps break down our food's cells walls, which helps our enzymes start the process of digestion and absorption. Another key is not to snack in between meals. Giving our bodies adequate time to rest (without focusing on digestion) gives our immune systems time to focus on protecting us.
4. Use these Boosters
People seem to think when flu season is upon us, they can just load up on extra packets of Ester-C and other supplements and that they'll magically be superheroes that are immune to all sickness. However, we must remember that supplements are just that - supplements to an already healthy diet. You cannot eat pizzas and pastries all day and expect supplements to keep you healthy. And further, supplements also work best over prolonged periods of time. You can't just take a double dose of zinc, for example, will not necessarily boost your immunity.
However, these are some vitamins and herbs that could be beneficial additions for some additional immune boosting benefits:
Zinc: is known for keeping the immune system strong, healing wounds faster, and supports normal growth and regeneration of our cells. Adequate zinc stores within our bodies result in lesser chance and shorter duration of common colds
Foods Rich in Zinc: seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products
Vitamin C: supports all aspects of immune function. It’s needed for optimal antibody production and function. Without enough vitamin C, the immune system can be slower to respond to invading pathogens.
Foods rich in Vitamin C: Bell Pepper, Rose Hips, Kiwis, Spinach, Kale, Thyme, Parsley Brussels Sprouts, Black Current, and Lemons (while citrus fruits do contain Vitamin C all the aforementioned foods contain significantly more)
Vitamin D: A hormone that a majority of the population, especially those living in cities are deficient in. (Side note: did you know we absorb most of our vitamin D through our skin, eyes, and nails). It’s a hormone that boosts our immune system by acting like a dial which will turn up or down our immune response as necessary.
Foods rich in Vitamin D: fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and cod-liver oil (omerga 3 could also be a good supplement to take), and mushrooms
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Inflammation is the source of many diseases and even weight gain. Stress, poor food choices, and environmental/technological pollution can increase inflammation in the body. Consuming foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds regularly can help regulate inflammation within our bodies.
Foods with Anti-Inflammatory Properties: berries, fatty fish, broccoli, avocado, tumeric, ginger, manuka honey, peppers, mushrooms, cacao
Oil of Oregano: exhibits antibacterial and antiviral properties and contains compounds reduces frequency of cough. Oregano can also keep your gut healthy by increasing bile. Whenever I feel myself getting slightly ill, I'll take a few drops of oregano oil a few times a day and within a few days feel much better.
5. Be consistent
When it comes to eating for immunity, consistency is key. While bell peppers are extremely rich in Vitamin C, eating 4 of them for breakfast will not make you any more immune to illness that same day. It's what we do most of the time that determines our health. Just as eating healthy is important, we must also remember that the occasional treat is not enough to throw off our extremely intelligent and sophisticated bodies.
Other Things You Can Do to Boost Immunity
Do some - medium range exercise daily (over-doing it can be taxing on the body and backfire on our immunity)
Stress less - meditation, some yoga, and deep breathing can help manage your body's stress response to difficult situations that are out of your control
Hydrate - water helps oxygenate our blood, which helps our cells and organs function at full capacity. Also, when we drink more water, our kidneys become more efficient at flushing out toxins from our bodies making our immune systems more readily available to protect us from outside invasions since it doesn't have to worry about helping out our kidneys.
Get Enough Sleep - Sleep is when our bodies restore and fight off any potential upcoming sickness. Poor sleep will quickly result in sickness if continued for more than a few nights.