If you’ve ever wondered what part nutrition plays in building your immune system, the answer is an enormous one. So just it may not be cold or flue season, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to keep an eye on our immune system–and on our daily nutrition. It’s closing in on vacation time, you’re stressed out, running around like a crazy person to get everything done before you take off for that much deserved vacation… and then you get sick when you get there. Sound familiar?
What is the immune system?
The immune system is an amazing protection mechanism made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs designed to defend you against millions of bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites that would love to invade you. In most cases, it does a great job of keeping you healthy and avoiding infections; but sometimes problems with the immune system can lead to infection, illness, and even disease.
How can I build my immune system with Nutrition?
Experts recommend getting as many vitamins and minerals as possible through food, rather than through supplements, because the body absorbs the nutrients from food more effectively. Of course there are many other factors, but how you “treat” and “feed” your immune system has a large influence on how well you will be protected. Try these simple suggestions to stay pumped up year round:
- Vitamin C – Always take extra vitamin C before you travel. Good sources are red bell peppers, strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, and broccoli. Start 2-3 days before travel with food or supplements.
- Vitamin E – Get the healthiest amount from nuts and whole grains. They also make a great travel snack for air or road travel.
- Garlic – Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria (it’s also a natural antibiotic). Add crushed garlic to your cooking as often as possible or eat 2 raw cloves a day.
- Zinc – This mineral is important for the development of white blood cells. For those who have cut back on beef try turkey, beans, oysters, crab, or fortified milk. It’s a good idea to travel with zinc lozenges–just in case.
- Bioflavonoids – Sometimes referred to as “Vitamin P,” these are super-antioxidants found in many natural foods. Scientists have found that bioflavonoids have specific capabilities to increase bodily health by increasing cell formations and, according to some medical experts, even suppress poor cellular growth in order to deliver an anti-carcinogenic effect. Bioflavonoids are found in vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruit, kiwis, red bell peppers, and tropical fruits.
- Selenium – Plentiful in shellfish, chicken, tuna, whole grains, and brown rice, selenium can help clear viruses out of the body.
- Carotenoids – Think orange when looking for foods containing beta-carotene; like sweet potatoes, carrots, canned pumpkin, or cantaloupe.
- Yogurt – The probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the intestinal tract free of disease causing germs.
- Mushrooms – For centuries, people around the world have used mushrooms for a healthy immune system. Studies show they increase the production and activity of white blood cells. More white blood cells equals less infections.
- Tea – Drink black or green tea. Get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags by bopping them up and down while you brew.
Along with eating a varied and balanced diet, try these healthy lifestyle tips to boost immunity:
- Wash your hand thoroughly and often. This is still your first line of defense, and really does reduce the number of organisms that can enter you body.
- Eat less sugar – Just 100 grams of sugar, (the amount in one 12-ounce can of soda), can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent for up to 5 hours.
- Don’t skimp on sleep – Deep sleep stimulates and energizes the immune system.
- Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight can lead to a weakened immune system.
~It can’t hurt to pump yourself up with airborne the week before you travel~
Click if you want to build your immune system with nutrition
Nutritious Recipe of the Week
Sweet potato lasagne is a super immune boosting and savory dish combining many of the nutritious ingredients listed above. You’ll get the vitamin C from the peppers and tomatoes, plus a healthy dose of carotenoids from the carrots and sweet potatoes – load it up with garlic, of course. I made a double batch, and it freezes well.
Build your immune system with this tasty recipe of the week.