Eating For Immunity
I hope you continue to be healthy, happy and well rested during this tumultuous time. Although there is much out of our control at the moment, there are many simple things we can be doing to support our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. I will be sharing a number of strategies and suggestions that I am using on a daily and weekly basis with you over the next little while. I hope you are able to find a few ideas that resonate with you and build on your own routine to support your well-being.
Last week I wrote about some general things we can be doing to boost our natural immunity. This week I want to focus in on the specific nutritional aspect of staying well.
Key Nutrients to Boost Immunity
Food is more than just energy. It is information. It provides the body with instructions that affect your sleep, energy, brain power, immunity and, ultimately, your overall health and well-being. So it is important to pay attention to what we are putting into our bodies. Right now, when we need to keep our natural immunity strong, it is particularly important to focus on key foods that will support your immune system and help to keep you well. Here are some of the key nutrients and foods that I am focussing on these days:
Vitamin C. This is the vitamin most of us think of when we think of boosting immunity and for good reason. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, protecting your cells from free radical damage. It stimulates the production of white bloods cells which protect us from viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and gout. Great sources of vitamin C include: red peppers, oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, green pepper, strawberries, cabbage and cauliflower.
Vitamin D. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D has many important functions in the body including supporting immunity. It helps fight disease, reduces depression and even supports weight loss. How do you get more Vitamin D through food? Fatty fish like tuna, sardines and wild-caught salmon. Fortified drinks like almond milk. Egg yolks (choose pasture-raised eggs). Cheese (if you tolerate dairy). Beef liver. Mushrooms.
It can be tricky to get enough vitamin D through food and sunlight (especially when you live far from the equator!) so I always recommend a Vitamin D supplement as well.
Garlic. The Cleveland Clinic has garlic on its list of power foods and for good reason. It is a powerful antioxidant, virus fighter and immune booster. And it tastes great! It is easy to add garlic to your food several times/day – add it to salad dressings, stir fries and seasonings. Roast vegetables and throw 5-6 minced cloves on top. Take a whole head of garlic, cut the end off, wrap in tinfoil and roast in the oven for an hour to make a delicious roasted garlic spread that goes well on most foods!
Onions. Onions contain organosulfur compounds like quercetin and allicin. These are go-getters when it comes to fighting viruses and bacteria! They contain antioxidants and fight inflammation. They have cancer-fighting properties, antibacterial properties and boost your natural immunity. They also contain probiotics which feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Having a good balance of healthy gut bacteria is critical to immunity as 80% of your immunity comes from your gut! Eat onions every day! It is very easy to get more onions into your diet: add them to guacamole; caramelize them and enjoy on a salad; cook them with other vegetables; use them as a base for soups and stocks; add them to stir fry; use as a garnish for tacos or fajitas.
Onions and garlic are heavy hitters for immunity. They have powerful antimicrobial properties and they boost natural immunity.
Green Tea. Green tea has so many amazing health benefits from epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. EGCG is a powerful antiviral and antioxidant. It stimulates your metabolism so is great for energy and supports weight loss. It is a strong antibacterial and antiviral so it reduces your risk of infection and boost immunity. I recommend sipping a cup or two of green tea every day so try adding a pot of beautiful green tea to your daily routine or try a matcha smoothie in the morning to really pick up your game!
Mushrooms. Mushrooms have long been known for their medicinal properties and Eastern medicine has been using them for years. There are several important mushrooms to add to your diet for an immune boost: Reishi – support immunity & may fight cancer cells; Chaga – powerful antioxidant & immune booster; Shiitake – strong antiviral properties; Turkey Tail – strong immune booster. There are many ways to get more mushrooms into your daily diet: buy them fresh and add them to stir fries, chilli or spaghetti sauce; make a medical mushroom soup with garlic, onions and mushroom; drink them – Four Sigmatic makes easy-to-prepare powders that you can add to your morning coffee or latte; make your own elixir. I buy dried chaga mushrooms, boil them in water with a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean to make a delicious tea.
Mushrooms have long been known for their medicinal properties and Eastern medicine has been using them for years.
Ginger. Ginger not only adds a sweet and spicy flavour to your foods, it also encourages your immune system to produce antiviral cells. It’s been shown to improve cell strength in the upper and lower respiratory tract, an important immunity booster for colds, flu, and coronavirus. Ginger is super easy to consume daily. Just add a slice to a jug of water and sip on it all day. Combine it with lemon and warm water to start your morning right. Peel and grate it and add to soups and stir fries.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to cook healthy, nourishing meals. With a little thought and planning, you can incorporate these foods easily into your daily and weekly meals. Get into a routine of drinking a litre or more of water every day with some lemon and ginger slices. Add a mushroom powder to your morning tea or coffee. Aim to eat 4-6 cups of vegetables (with a little bit of fruit) every day. Drink an afternoon cup of green tea. Your mind and body will thank you!