Food is great medicine for anyone trying to ward off the flu and Coronavirus.
While much of the conversation about safety has focused on washing your hands for 20 seconds, avoiding handshakes, and resisting the urge to touch your face, another key step to staying healthy involves strengthening your immune system.
Immune health is bolstered by smart lifestyle choices and the right diet — a year-round pursuit that allows our body the chance to defend itself no matter what we face.
“We often think of nutrition and how to support the immune system when it comes to the flu season, but our body’s defense systems operate every second of every day, fighting off foreign bacteria, viruses and other invaders, and keeping us healthy. Our goal should be to think of this daily, how best to support our bodies proper metabolic function,” said Randy Evans, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietician consultant with Fresh n’ Lean.
Here are six tips to boosting your immune system.
Take care of yourself
Getting shuteye and taking the time to de-stress could help you stay healthy.
Lifestyle choices such as sleep and stress management are vital to the proper function of your immune system.
The non-profit National Sleep Foundation recommends adults receive an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Stress hasn’t been so easy lately. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it anxiety and fear. Stock markets tumbled, sports leagues suspended operations, cultural events and large gatherings were canceled, and our way of life began to shift.
Breathing exercises, meditation or a jog could help you shed some stress, helping you maintain positivity and maintain your immune health.
Eat the rainbow
Focus on the colors in your diet — green kale and cucumber, orange sweet potatoes and carrots, purples and blue hues of plums and blueberries.
“The colors in healthy foods are actually a part of the plant’s immune system, so eating the rainbow in your diet boosts your phytonutrient intake and boosts nutrients to help support your immune function,” Evans said.
Eating whole foods reduces the intake of chemicals, additives and artificial sweeteners often found in processed foods, improving the body’s detox system.
Beyond veggies and fruits, healthy fats — those found in extra virgin, organic, and cold-pressed coconut or olive oil, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and range-fed or wild-caught animal products — are also a smart addition for meals and snacks.
Eat your medicine
Nutraceuticals represent the perfect balance of food and medicine — they provide nourishment as well as medical benefit.
The supplements “might aid prevention and control” of viruses like COVID-19, according to a research article published in February by the journal “Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.”
Key nutraceuticals highlighted in the study include:
- Ferulic acid
- Lipoic acid
- Yeast Beta-Glucan
The nutrients are often found to be low or very low in unhealthy patients, Evans said, meaning the body is weak and unable to respond to viral threats.
Follow your gut
The best measure of your immune health can be found in your gut bacteria.
All of the bacteria in your body makes up your microbiome. The right types of food — such as leafy greens and lean proteins — can promote the growth of good bacteria, or microflora, in our systems and reduce inflammation.
The wrong types of foods, such as too much sugar, can fuel inflammation, making you more susceptible to disease and impacting hormone balance.
We often only focus on our gastrointestinal tract when we’re having issues, but most of our immune system cells (70-80%) are located in our gastrointestinal tract.
Soak up some sun
Make sure to stay on the sunny side.
Vitamin D — which is produced when the skin receives sunlight, and is also found in fresh fish and eggs — has many important functions in the body, including bolstering bone and overall health.
“It’s actually more of a hormone than a vitamin in function,” Evans said. “Research suggests Vitamin D has both antimicrobial and antiviral potential in the body. The most potent impact is shown when Vitamin D levels are boosted when found low.”
The most effective way of measuring the body’s Vitamin D levels is through the amount of the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood, and experts recommend a concentration of 50 nanomoles per liter.
Water is the fuel that triggers the body’s metabolic processes, making H20 especially important for our immune health.
The goal: drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. You may need more water than that if you’re active, and anyone who’s been told they’re fluid-restricted should discuss hydration with their doctor.
Dehydration, meanwhile, can invite a wide range of issues, including afternoon fatigue, headaches and muscle cramps.
It’s important to be mindful of staying hydrated if you drink alcohol. Be sure to trade one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume, and be sure to drink water before and after to keep your body in balance. Your boosted immune system and diminished hangover will thank you the next