How to Eat for Immunity
Do you feel that crispness in the air? The days are getting noticeably shorter and a bit cooler, which means one thing – Fall is in the air. This also signals the time of the year when we’re all suddenly a bit busier now that the Summer days are behind us. A bit cooler, a bit more stressed, new pollens in the air, a bit more tired – this all adds up to colds, flus, and illness. The good news is that you can now lay the foundation for a healthy and powerful immune system that can protect you from seasonal colds, flus, and other viruses. All it takes is a little bit of time in the kitchen.
Now, don’t worry we won’t have you brewing your own kombucha or fermenting foods (but if you want to, we hope that you’ll tell us how it goes on our Facebook page !) – instead we’ll have you eating foods that are familiar but often overlooked for their immunity strengthening abilities.
Food and Inflammation
As you likely know, we want to limit inflammation in our bodies. The more inflammation, the more stress on our immune system and as a result, a greater chance of getting sick. Chronic inflammation becomes problematic because your immune system is constantly working to try and control this invasive inflammation, eventually stretching the limits of your immune system which could even contribute to an auto-immune disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, fatigue, and digestive problems. There are certain foods that have been linked to causing higher levels of inflammation in our bodies, and one of the first things you can do is limit or cut-back on these foods. Remember, everything in balance, so we’re not going to suggest you give up these foods entirely – just be conscious of when and how much you intake. To get you off on a fresh start for the Fall, try to limit these inflammation-causing foods:
- Sugar. You know where this ingredient lurks – in our favorite treats. But remember to look for it in your salad dressing, cereal, and flavored yogurt. Sugar is an essential ingredient in baking, so you can’t cut it out entirely but you can cut back or substitute dates or a ripe banana to give the same sweetness.
- Fried foods. These favorites like french fries, onion rings, fish sticks, and egg rolls all contain one inflammatory culprit: advanced glycation end (AGEs) products. These AGEs have been shown in studies to be linked to higher levels of inflammation.
- Processed meat. While sliced sandwich meat is very convenient for making lunches, it can be packed with sodium, AGEs, and other preservatives that aren’t helping us feel our best. If you do want to keep eating processed meat such as deli meat, bacon, sausages, or jerky, look for ones that have a very short ingredient list and try to buy ones that are preservative free.
Eat the Rainbow and More for Immunity
Now on to the good stuff, the foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet to support and strengthen your immune system. We promise that we haven’t included anything strange or hard to find that requires multiple trips to different grocery stores.
- Mushrooms. The health benefits of mushrooms cannot be overlooked. They are the foundation of AHCC, which has been proven to support the immune system, ensuring that you’re able to fight off infection and disease. Shitake, Portobello, button, oyster, white, chanterelle, and cremini mushrooms are all typically available at your local grocery store. Add them to stir fries, make mushroom soup, toss them in a casserole, add them to tacos, grill Portobello mushrooms, add them to pizza – really the options are limitless. The key is that you’re getting amazing immune system support while enjoying a delicious food.
- Citrus. Oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruits all have a very important immune boosting quality – vitamin C. This vital antioxidant supports your immune system and along with your recommended dose of AHCC, goes a long way in keeping you feeling your best. Make a fruit salad and add in a few sliced oranges, pack an orange or tangerine with your lunch, broil grapefruit for a weekend breakfast, keep a pitcher of lemon or lime water in the fridge for an easy and tasty way to get your eight glasses of water, or even add an orange to a smoothie (it goes great with frozen mango and shredded carrot).
- Cruciferous Vegetables. Super vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and cabbage pack an immune system punch. To top it off these vitamin-packed vegetables also contain choline which helps keep your cells working properly. Affordable and available year-round, incorporate these vegetables into your meal rotation as a stir fry base, added to soups and stews, omelets, as a side to accompany a main dish, or dipped in hummus for an afternoon snack. Hint: keep a couple bags of frozen broccoli and cauliflower in your freezer so you have easy access to washed and chopped vegetables.
- Yogurt. This is a true super power that is packed with vitamin D and essential active cultures that help you keep your digestive system healthy. Choose from fermented kefir for a quick morning snack, add frozen fruit or fresh berries to plain Skyr or Greek yogurt for healthful breakfast or dessert, add a spoonful to your smoothie, and use it in dips or salad dressings. One tip is to stay away from flavored yogurts or those with extra add-ins such as granola or candy. Instead to reap the full rewards of this super health food, buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit, chopped chocolate, protein powder, cereal, or even some natural peanut butter.
You Are What You Eat
The science and evidence doesn’t exaggerate – you are what you eat. The better and healthier the foods you consume regularly, the better you’ll feel inside and out. Of course, we don’t want you to give up pizza night or your favorite ice cream (we don’t want to either) but remember moderation and focus is key. Make sure to get the immune boosting healthy foods in 90% of the time and give yourself some wiggle room with the extra 10%.
Too many people take their immune system for granted. Fortunately, you know better and understand that it takes a balanced approach to living to give your immune system the support it needs to keep working for you. Eat to boost immunity, try to limit your stress, take AHCC regularly, get adequate sleep, and get some fresh air – you’ll feel better and there’s a high chance that you won’t be stuck in bed with a seasonal cold or flu.