As we get closer to the holidays, it is smart to have a strategy in place to boost your immune system. A better diet can help enormously.
- Start with more fruits and vegetables — Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough. Think about how you can add more of these nutrient packed foods to each meal. For breakfast, you can always add fruit and greens to a protein smoothie. I know it might sound a little odd to add greens to your shake but the truth is you will never taste them and it will go a long way toward supporting your immune system. You can also add sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and a little spinach to your breakfast as a side dish to eggs or just add them right to the eggs as you cook them. Or just add some berries to your morning oatmeal. It’s easy to boost your lunch nutritionally by adding vegetables like onion, lettuce, avocado and tomato to your sandwiches. Soups are an easy choice and great way to get lots of nutrients this time of year. At dinner, it is pretty easy to up the vegetable ante. Look at your plate and cover half of it with vegetables! Simple, right?
- Garlic — Numerous studies have shown that garlic takers are less likely to get a cold. It contains allicin, the active ingredient that fights infection and bacteria. Garlic is easy to add to salad dressing, soups, sautéed or roasted veggies or casseroles.
- Onions — Garlic and onions are related so onions also contain allicin. Plus, they have an additional ingredient called quercetin which is a nutrient that breaks up mucus in your head and chest while boosting your immune system
- Chicken soup — It’s pretty well known that Jewish grandmothers knew what they were talking about but I think it always makes good sense to know why. A study at the University of Nebraska demonstrated that chicken soup slowed the migration of white blood cells. This may be because cysteine which is an amino acid released as the chicken cooks is chemically similar to the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine. Just another example of how food is medicine.
- Probiotics — Fermented foods like plain yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, unpasteurized pickles and sauerkraut provide healthy bacteria which help to keep the digestive track free of disease-causing germs.
- Mushrooms — White blood cell production and activity increase when you these fungi which is a good thing when you have an infection. Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are the best choices. Add them to sautéed or roasted veggies, soups or most any casserole. Or better yet, make yourself some mushroom soup with chicken broth.
- Shellfish — Oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams are a great source of selenium which helps the body to produce cytokines. Cytokines help rid the body of the flu virus.
- Beef — Zinc is one of those nutrients that American fall short on and beef is a great source of this nutrient which is important to the production of white blood cells. Stick with lean, grass fed beef and if you are not a beef eater. Oyster, fortified cereals, pork, poultry, yogurt and mild are good alternatives.
- Sugar and refined carbs — Foods to avoid to make your immune system stronger include sugar, refined foods like white flour and food products made from white flour including pasta, bread, crackers, ready to eat cereals, white rice, packaged and processed foods.
- Supplements — If your immune system is particularly vulnerable you might want to try supplemental probiotics and vitamin D3. Since D3 deficiency puts us at risk for many diseases and conditions it is wise to get your level tested by your physician to be sure what your level is so it can be treated properly. This is especially true if you live in the northern latitudes because vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and there are not many good food sources.
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