Get an immune system of steel with these three foods
Last updated 5/6/2020 at 4:23pm | View PDF
As a kid, or maybe even as an adult, have you ever wished for a superpower? (My pick? Teleportation!) Nowadays, though, I suspect an increasing number of us would wish for an immune system of steel.
For those of us who weren't born with a healing factor or bitten by a radioactive spider, the only known methods for combating COVID-19 effectively are social distancing (give 'em space - six feet!), practicing proper hygiene (i.e., washing your hands for the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice) and staying home if you are feeling sick. That said, you can pair these measures with a little extra support. After all, Batman has Robin. Form a dynamic duo with foods that fuel your body with natural immunity boosters.
What is an immunity booster?
Inflammation is our body's kryptonite. By reducing inflammation, the body can focus on strengthening its immune system, which in turn makes it better equipped to fight off viruses. Immunity boosters are foods that help reduce inflammation and strengthen your natural defenses against disease:
• Protein - The building block of the immune system, protein builds, maintains and repairs tissue and to bolster your immune system to help you ward off illnesses.
Best sources: Seafood, poultry, lean meat, eggs, soy products (tofu, tempeh, etc.), beans, lentils, nuts, seeds
Produce - Whole produce is a nutritional powerhouse, providing key nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamins C and D, zinc and fiber Best sources: Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; aim to have non-starchy vegetables with at least two of your meals and use fruit as dessert
• Probiotics - Good gut bacteria help keep your gastrointestinal system in check and promote overall health.
Best sources: Yogurt (with live cultures) or kefir, with little to no added sugar; tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut (unpasteurized)
Best of all, you can bring these boosters together to form a nutritional superteam. Immunity Avengers, assemble!
Top plain Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds to satisfy your sweet tooth - it works as a breakfast or a dessert!
Knock out a serving of veggies early in the day by packing your morning omelet with broccoli and tomato and wash it down with a kefir smoothie
Similarly, try a spinach salad with chicken and walnuts for lunch or pair salmon with roasted bell peppers and kimchi for dinner
What is an "Immunity Bully?"
If immunity boosters are the Superman of the food world, "immunity bullies" are the Lex Luthor. These are foods and activities that cause inflammation, forcing your immune system to work harder than it should.
The top three are added sugar, poor sleep and sitting too much.
Some changes in behavior can help.
Swap out sweetened beverages, cereals and desserts with healthy alternatives, such as mixed berries with whipping cream or a piece of fresh fruit
Turn off screens at least one hour before bed, develop a regular sleep schedule that provides at least seven hours a night and avoid caffeine.
Work toward a goal of 150–300 minutes of aerobic activity/week and two to three days of muscle-strengthening activities (i.e., weights, resistance bands, etc.). Focus on moderate exercises that can be performed at home (i.e., brisk walk, biking, gardening, washing your car). Try a virtual exercise class.
A truly invincible immune system might be the stuff of comic books, but a strengthened one is certainly within the reach of us mere mortals. So please do your part, for the health and the safety of those around you. We are in this together.
Stay safe, be well and, in the words of Stan Lee, "'Nuff said, true believers!"
- Courtney Southwood, MS, RDN, LDN, is a practicing registered dietitian who specializes in weight management and pediatric nutrition with Amita Health.