It's that time of year! When the seasons change allergies or sniffles can start to become a big problem. But did you know what you eat can help boost your immune system? That's right! In fact, getting sick has more to do with how strong or weak your immune system is, not if you are surrounded by sick people. Believe it or not, if your immune system is fed the nutrients it needs to fight pathogens in the body, you can be around sick people and not get sick.
While food is key to keeping our immune system healthy, vitamins are also necessary. Unfortunately, no matter how good we eat, it is really hard to get enough nutrients from our food to support our bodies needs. Whether it is the immune system, circulatory system, digestive system or endocrine system, vitamins are necessary.
You may be thinking, well if that is the case, why not just take vitamins and eat what I want? You could do that but that would defeat the purpose of trying to make the body as strong as possible. Plus, I don't know about you, but I would miss chewing and tasting good food!
Eating foods that are not organic, contain pesticides and are high in fat, tells the immune system to start fighting for our health. Over a prolonged period of time, the immune system becomes fatigued and more susceptible to sickness and disease. Any amount of vitamins you take while the body is fighting against the other pollutants found in conventionally grown food, will not help change this situation.
Here is how to eat to boost your immune system:
Buy organic whenever you can. Organic food is important because it helps you avoid pesticides and chemicals that can wreak havoc on your immune system. I strive to have at least 80% of every meal organic. It is unrealistic to think 100% of a meal is going to be organic. While organic food is becoming more prevalent (have you tried Organic Doritos yet? So Good!) you may not be able to buy everything organic. My local grocery store has a very limited section of fresh produce that is organic. So I supplement by shopping at a Whole Foods or buying organic frozen foods.
Take vitamins. There are very specific vitamins and supplements you can take to boost your immune system. The key is taking therapeutic dosages, which may be hard to figure out without some guidance. Before taking vitamins, make sure to discuss with your specific situation with your doctor. Here are the most common vitamins that support the immune system:
Vitamin D 2,000 - 4,000 IU daily. Most annual blood work is testing for vitamin D levels. Almost 50% of the population is deficient due to not going outdoors and using sunscreen. Mushrooms, tofu, eggs, salmon and yogurt are all high in vitamin D.
Quercetin 400mg about 20 minutes before you eat any meal. Quercetin is the potent bioflavonoid you have never heard of. It is known for suppressing histamine responses and other allergic/inflammatory substances. This helps the immune system by reducing the amount of work it has to do since reactions to allergens are reduced. Apples, blueberries and onions are high in Quercetin.
Fish Oil 1,000 mg EPA + DHA daily. Most of us eat a ton of omega-6's in our diet and not enough omega-3. Omega-3 can help alleviate allergies, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory conditions such as Chron's disease. All of those conditions force the immune system to fight to keep the body healthy. Hemp, winter squash, spinach and soybeans are all high in Omega-3.
Probiotic at least 1 Billion CFU daily. A CFU is the activity of the probiotic and will be listed on the bottle. Studies have been done on 1 Billion to 100 Billion CFUs. The key to figuring out how much to take daily, is to discuss with your doctor your health goals. Probiotic's have been shown to have immune-enhancing effects as studies are uncovering how the digestive system supports the immune system. Miso, tempeh, kombucha and yogurt are high in probiotics.
(Sources: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine and Healthline.com)
3. Eat something green everyday! Why? Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the active component found in all green plants. Eating spinach, broccoli, arugula, green beans, avocado or romaine lettuce is one way to get chlorophyll everyday. Chlorophyll helps your immune system be strong because it helps promote the formation of red blood cells which the immune system needs to carry oxygen to our tissue. Oxygen helps to heal and reduce inflammation. (Source: Why Chlorophyll)
Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat green foods:
Healthy Spinach Recipes from Hurry the Food Up. This web page has a variety of quick and easy smoothies, salads and sandwiches full of spinach. Click here.
Easiest Pasta and Broccoli from Skinny Taste. This pasta dish is ready in 30 minutes. You can make it faster by substituting organic frozen broccoli florets. Click here.
Healthy Broccoli Apple Salad from Kim's Cravings. This salad makes a perfect lunch or dinner and has a recipe for a creamy dressing. Click here.
Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Penne with Arugula from Elizabeth Rider. Did you know arugula wilts in just a couple of minutes and can be used in any recipe to add a green food? I even top arugula with scrambled eggs for a healthy breakfast! This pasta dish shows how arugula can be used in more than just salads. Click here.
When eating for immune health it is important to eat foods high in Vitamin D, Quercetin, Omega-3 and Probiotics. Also, make sure to eat something green every day to promote red blood cell formation and to reduce inflammation. I hope you found this post informative and will incorporate immune boosting foods and supplements into your healthy living routine.
As a Certified Holistic Nutritionist (CHN) I focus on helping people get healthy and stay healthy.
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