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Eating to Boost Immunity and Stay Healthy

Eating to Boost Immunity and Stay Healthy

Today, more than ever, we’re looking for ways to stay healthy. To be clear, there is no magic potion, exercise routine, supplement, or diet plan that will guarantee your optimal health.

The good news is that there are many ways you can increase your odds of avoiding illness.

While it’s important to reduce stress levels, get good quality sleep (7-9 hours), move your body, and wash your hands (I’ve never been told to wash my hands this much since I was a kid), in today’s blog, I’m going to focus on proper nutrition.   

Making lots of changes at one time is overwhelming and fleeting. As you look at immune boosting practices, choose one that is simple for you to implement today. When it seems easy to manage, add another one. Mastering good habits slowly, over time, is the way to make them permanent.

By making good nutrition a priority, you will increase your body’s ability to fight off illness now and in the years to come.

Avoid deficiencies by eating a variety of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, protein, and healthy fats. Stay away from processed products as much as possible—you know what I’m referring to–those packaged goods that have ingredient lists filled with words you can’t pronounce–and that you can barely read without cheaters.

Aim for a serving of protein at every meal/snack. A typical serving for women is one palm size, and for men, 2 palm sizes. Sources of protein include lean meats, fish, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy. Beans and legumes are protein sources for plant-based eaters.

Protein is the building block of antibodies. People who are protein-deficient are more susceptible to infectious disease.

Vitamin C
Whole foods are the best sources, as vitamin C is needed to prevent and fight infections. Because this vitamin is water-soluble, we need to replenish it daily. Some of the more common foods high in vitamin C are kale, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, oranges, lemons, yellow sweet peppers, chili peppers, guava, thyme, parsley, mustard spinach, kiwis, broccoli, papayas.

Aim for 1-2 servings per day. For vegetables, a serving is 1-2 fists worth. For fruits (carbs), 1-2 cupped handfuls.  

Vitamin D
Unless you live near the equator, you’ll probably need to supplement. There are foods fortified with vitamin D, however we typically need more. The only way to determine how much you need in a supplement is by determining your blood level. Most people need to supplement with anywhere from 600-4,000 IU’s per day.

Vitamin D helps protect against respiratory infections. Check with your healthcare provider for the supplement and dose that is right for you.

NOTE: When the body is experiencing significant inflammation, such as can occur in some people who become severely sick from COVID-19 infection, vitamin D should be temporarily discontinued. It may be resumed upon return to health. (per the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine)

Whole food sources like whole grains, oysters, and scallops are best. Zinc lozenges may help those who are already sick.

Zinc supports T-cells which fight off infection.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Eat plant sources such as chia seeds, walnuts, and ground flax seeds daily. (You won’t reap as many benefits from whole flax seeds, as your intestines cannot break down the tough outer shell of the seeds.) Consume oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna, 2-3 times per week. Consider a supplement if you don’t eat fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help white blood cells fight off infection and disease.

Is there more we can do? There’s always more. This is a great start.

Focus on what you CAN control. Most of us can control what we eat.

To your health,

“The ability to keep doing what you love doing is so fragile.”—Dr. John Berardi

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