Now, more than ever is the time to keep our bodies strong and healthy for ourselves and loved ones. Building a strong immune system is all about making daily, smart, yet simple lifestyle and food choices.
What Really is Our Immune System Anyways?
Our immune system is at work 24/7, whether we realize it or not. It’s a network of organs, blood cells and proteins operating together to fight off invasive bacteria and pathogens that enter the body. Our bodies have the incredible ability to detect cells as “self” or “non- self” when the immune system is fully functioning. With a suppressed, underactive system, our bodies are more susceptible to viruses, infections, allergies, autoimmune diseases, etc. In other words, the immune system serves as the body’s defense mechanism.
What can we do to help our body build the healthiest immune system we can?
Food is one of the best medicines and natural ways for healing, while serving as a key measure in the prevention of disease. We want to fuel our bodies with the best energy we can, right? Think about it this way, if I go to fill my car up at the gas station, I go for the premium grade gasoline. It’s going to give me the cleanest, top- quality fuel for my car which will keep the engine happy and running at its highest capacity. The same goes for our bodies. So now you may be asking, what are some foods that would provide me with the best fuel for my body?
Eat Real Food and Add More Plants
We know to avoid sugar, processed and fried foods, etc, as harmful bacteria and yeast feast off of sugar, so let’s take a look at which foods we should actively seek out at the store.
It’s all about the color! Strive for eating whole, unprocessed, top quality, plant- based foods. Most of the shopping trip will be spent in the produce section, followed by making way around the outer perimeter of the store, avoiding the middle isles of “junk food”.
Some fruits and veggies for immunity include:
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts)- Full of selenium, which acts as an antioxidant, these nuts have powerful properties that aid in boosting the immune system and fighting off potential pathogen invaders.
- Red Bell Peppers- These colorful, vibrant delights are king of vitamin C! They have twice the amount of vitamin C as citrus fruits and contain loads of beta carotene. It’s important to buy organic, if possible, as peppers are repeatedly one of the vegetables testing high in pesticide levels.
- Strawberries- Did you know strawberries also have more vitamin C than oranges? They also help prevent cancer and improve skin quality. With berries coming into season, these will be readily available at grocery stores and local farmer markets.
- Broccoli- Some may be opposed to the taste of broccoli, but it’s one of the best foods out there for you when it comes to immune health. Broccoli is packed with calcium, vitamin A and E, which is the source of immune cell production. If you don’t enjoy it raw, try steaming of baking it with some other roasted veggies such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. Throw on some chicken or shrimp and dinner is made!
- Citrus Fruits –When we think immune health, I’m sure the first food that comes to mind are oranges for a vitamin C boost. Yes, certainly this is true and you cannot go wrong with consuming these guys! Orange juice is a great option, too!
- Dark Leafy Greens - Kale and Spinach are your go-to’s for greens! They contain high levels of vitamin C, vitamin E and folate, all of which are essential for top immune function.
Next, after making way around the produce section, add in some nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes, oats, and plant based milks. These plant-based, natural foods will add some essential nutrients in addition to your fruits and veggies. Oh yes and water, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!! Allow water to be your best friend!
While these foods are all immune boosting, they’re going to make our guts happy, too. A happy gut is a healthy body! (A topic for another time, which deserves a whole blog post of its own).
What’s most important is to make this simple, easy and not complicated. If you don’t have some of these foods on hand, that’s quite alright! Write them to your grocery list and next time you go to the store, add a few to your cart.
So, we challenge you: how colorful can you make your plate? Have some fun, try new recipes, include the kids in making dinner and teach them the art of smoothie making. You’d be surprised how many different varieties of fruits and veggies you can add to make a flavorful combo. Let us know some of your favorite recipes and what you’re loving these days!
Further, it’s important to mention, in addition to eating nutrient and vitamin rich foods for immunity, you may want to temporarily add in some supplements if you feel you are lacking in a particular mineral or vitamin. However, keep in mind your first line of defense for your body is going to be through the foods you eat. However, sometimes that isn’t enough which is why supplements are there to supplement, not to be relied upon as your sole source of nutrients.
Which supplements should I take?
We can give our bodies an extra boost with natural supplements. If you take a multivitamin, check the label for the following vitamins/supplements:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C- essential for antibody production
- Melatonin (Before bed)
The supplements can be bought on their own, or often times come in a combo such as calcium magnesium and zinc which makes it an easy way to get in more than one.
Strengthening our immune systems doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a training process, but our body will thank us for the care and effort we provided. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keeping in mind having a strong immune system doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never get sick, but if you do, recovery time will be much quicker compared to someone with an underactive, unhealthy system.
Ask yourself: How colorful was my lunch today? Did I consume any immune boosting foods? Am I taking daily supplements? Maybe it’s time to help our systems along in the daily battles against the sneaky pathogens we are exposed to. C’mon, time to make some dietary changes, your body is waiting!