Welcome to the brave new world of social distancing! You are staying close to home, which is the right thing to do, and there’s a tiny bright side—you can use this time away from your frenzied schedule to boost your family’s immunity to this nasty virus by using Smart Nutrition—eating real food! This is a time of high stress, which also compromises your immune system. Smart Nutrition helps you manage this, too!
How Does Food Affect Your Immune System?
First things first—a quick reminder that 60-70% of your immune system is found in your gut. The lining of your gut is your first line of defense is the body’s first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites that are often lurking in our food and our environment. A healthy gut means a more robust immune system. And since our “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin are made in our gut, a healthy gut helps us feel less stressed.
Your gut contains millions of bacteria from about 1,000 different strains. The foods you eat and the medications you take determine what kinds of bacteria flourish in your gut. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, while consumption of highly processed foods that are high in sugar (or are quickly converted to sugar) encourage the growth of less beneficial bacteria, which can lead to gas, discomfort, bloating and inflammation. Try this easy recipe for Chicken Barley Blueberry Spinach Salad to boost your immune system today!
Feed your gut the right foods and it will give you an edge in fighting illness.
- Lean proteins like beef, eggs, turkey, chicken, fish and pork contain all the essential amino acids our system uses to make antibodies that help us fight disease.
- Berries are rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids that enhance our immune system and protect our cells from damage.
- Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and pecans, contain vitamin E, zinc and selenium, which are powerful immune boosters.
- Orange-colored vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash, are high in beta-carotene, a nutrient that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays many important roles in immune function.
- Spices such as garlic, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and raw garlic have been used for centuries to treat infections and boost the immune system.
About Those Fermented Foods…
Fermentation is a biological method of food preservation that has been used for thousands of years, resulting in food that stays fresh longer and is safer to eat. Why are fermented foods important? They provide probiotics (good bacteria) for your gut. Eating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi daily supports your digestion, immune system and mood.
What to Avoid
There are foods, beverages and medications that worsen your gut health by either decreasing the good bacteria or increasing the bad bacteria in your gut.
- Sugar increases the bad bacteria in your gut. Women and children should consume 24 grams and men 32 grams of added sugar per day. Most of us far exceed this amount. Avoiding processed, packaged foods eliminates most of the added sugar in our diets.
- Foods to which you are sensitive or allergic interfere with your healthy gut biome. The chief offenders are dairy, gluten and soy.
- Medications that work to kill bad bacteria and treat illness can also kill off the good bacteria in your gut. This includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen and PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) used to treat acid reflux, such as Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec. Consult your healthcare provider and minimize use of these when possible.
- Meat and Poultry that were fed antibiotics. The antibiotics fed to animals remain in the meat and can kill the good bacteria in our system.
Real Food is the Answer
Eating real food does not mean you need to cook a gourmet meal every night. It means focusing on fresh foods, simply prepared, that are rich in nature’s nutrients. Start eating more real food to boost your immune system. You will love the way you feel!