You may have heard more about “immunity” these past couple of years than you have your entire life, as we have been navigating our way through the pandemic. To help everyone keep their immunity strong in the months ahead, let’s highlight 5 easy ways that you can do just that!
Nutrition plays a major role in how the immune system functions and you can support your immune system by including foods daily that contribute these immune-boosting nutrients. There are a handful of vitamins related to immunity but the top three are Vitamins C, E and B6. And there are at least three minerals we all should be getting on the daily to help keep our immunity strong; Selenium, Zinc and Copper.
Including more plant foods will help you get most of these vitamins and minerals plus it will automatically help you get more of the many phytonutrients (plant compounds) that also help support the immune system like polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, phytoestrogens, just to name a few!
So, with all of this in mind and more, here are 5 Ways to Help Keep Your Immunity Strong in the months ahead:
#1—Make half of your plate fruits and veggies!
When putting together or ordering your meal, think about whether half of your plate is represented by veggies and fruit.
* If you are having eggs for breakfast, add lots of veggies.
* If you are having oatmeal, yogurt or chia pudding for breakfast, make sure you include plenty of fruit.
* If you are having a sandwich for lunch, fill half of it with veggies or have them on the side as raw veggies to munch on or as a nice big salad.
* If you are making a pasta dish for dinner, be sure to fill half your plate with broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus or enjoy a dark green leafy salad.
* If you are enjoying a couple small slices of pizza, top your pizza with veggies and be sure to include a dark green leafy salad or raw veggies to munch on like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery.
#2—Make all of your grains and grain products WHOLE GRAINS whenever possible!
Choose whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
Choose brown rice, barley, and quinoa, for example, instead of white rice and processed grains.
Choose 100% whole wheat bread, tortillas, and buns, instead of refined flour products.
Use mostly whole wheat flour in your baking and cooking.
#3— When it comes to your protein routine, get protein from a variety of foods
* Include seafood when possible a couple of times a week. Tuna in a can or pouch counts! Salmon is a great way to get quality protein plus smart fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
* Look for fun ways to include high protein plant foods like beans/legumes/tofu/edamame, in addition to or instead of meat, several times a week.
* Enjoy a handful of nuts every day instead of snacking on chips and candy.
* Peanuts are the nut with the most protein! Choose natural-style peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) and spread it on whole-grain breads, serve it with celery, or stir it into oatmeal or smoothie bowls.
#4—A Healthy Gut is critical for a healthy immune system
Basically, we want to feed the good bacteria in our gut and guess what they love? FIBER, especially soluble fiber! Here’s our problem…the typical Western way of eating (high in fat and sugar and low in fiber) isn’t doing a good job of this. The second thing we want to remember about a healthy gut is that it’s best to have a diverse gut microbiome because each strain of bacteria is responsible for something different. By eating healthy (including lots of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-intact grains, legumes and nuts/seeds), and exercising regularly, we are helping to create a diverse microbiome.
When eating more fiber-rich foods, it’s super important to do two things: drink plenty of waterbecause fiber needs water to work its’ magic (soluble fiber in particular binds with water to form a gel), and gradually increase fiber to give your gastro-intestinal tract time to adjust!
Here are Some Soluble Fiber-Rich Foods
Whole Grains: Oats, barley
Fruits: Apples, nectarines, apricots, avocado, passion fruit, guava, pears, orange, pink grapefruit, figs
Vegetables: Carrots, parsnips, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, turnips
Beans & Legumes: Navy beans, refried beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans, French beans, split green peas, pinto beans, black beans, mung beans
Nuts & Seeds: Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts
#5—Lifestyle Habits important for immunity
There are things that we can do, beyond our food choices, that can also help keep our immunity strong.
* Sleep and De-stress: Adults should strive for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. To help you do this, put your phone away an hour before bedtime if possible and de-stress by asking yourself “how can I infuse some JOY into my day?” and then work on making that happen!
* Exercise: Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week!
* Quit Smoking: Quit smoking of you do smoke and if you don’t smoke, don’t start!
* Limit Alcohol: Limit alcohol intake, avoid binge drinking, and if you don’t already drink alcohol, consider keeping it that way.
Immunity refers to the body’s ability to resist infection and disease.
The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs in your body that help protect against infection and disease.
70 of our immune cells live in our gut and research links many diseases to the integrity of our gut lining and gut bacteria.
Gut Microbiome is a delicate balance of friendly and harmful micro-organisms. Many of these trillions of microbiome microbes live in your small and large intestines. It is unique to you, similar to a fingerprint, and it plays a critical role in our health and immunity.