Good nutrition and lifestyle habits play a crucial role in keeping you healthy and strong. The foods you eat can help to maintain a healthy body weight, increase your energy levels, boost performance, improve sleep, and support your immune system. Keeping an eye on the following will help give you and your loved ones the tools and practical tips to stay in good health.
What Is The Immune System?
When we talk about the immune system, we are usually referring to a whole range of bodily functions. It involves several organs, cells, proteins, our lymph nodes the bone marrow and more, which work together to create our body’s complex defense mechanism.
Because we cannot pinpoint the location of the immune system to a single organ or a single specific part of our body, there is also not a single food that can be considered the ultimate immune-boosting superfood. By eating a variety of wholesome, minimally processed and preferably organic foods, you are setting the best foundation to ensure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
There are, however, a few nutrients that have been linked to specific immune functions in our bodies.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and Vitamin C supplements are often one of the first things people reach for when they are feeling under the weather. But meeting your daily Vitamin C requirements with a balanced nutrition is quite easy, and a supplementation is usually not necessary. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits, such a lemons, oranges and berries, and a lot of vegetables, like red peppers or broccoli, for example.
- Zinc is a Mineral that is vital for proper immune function. The best sources for Zinc are meat and shellfish, but it can also be found in nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Boosting your zinc intake can help to fight off infections and shorten your recovery time.
- Vitamin D is another nutrient that has been linked to improving the immune response, specifically in connection with protecting the respiratory system. People with low levels of Vitamin D may be at an increased risk for asthma, lung disease and other viral or bacterial respiratory infections. Many people in America are Vitamin D deficient.
Because our body gets Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, this is especially important to consider during the winter months, for people who do not spend much time outside, little children, the elderly, and people with dark skin. I always recommend getting your Vitamin D levels tested by your doctor during your annual health check, to see if taking a Vitamin D supplement might be beneficial for you.
Foods to Integrate Into Your Family Meals
Certain foods have traditionally been used for generations to support the immune system, like ginger and turmeric, for example. These foods often contain plant- specific substances called phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties, or stimulate the body’s immune response.
Immune-boosting phytonutrients are not only found in ginger and turmeric. In fact, many fruits and vegetables contain them. By eating a wide variety of foods, both cooked and raw, you can make sure that you do not get too much of one nutrient or vitamin and not enough of another.
Water is another key factor for a well-functioning immune system. We need hydration to keep our skin healthy and supple, our body’s largest organ and the first layer of protection between our body and harmful environmental influences. Staying hydrated helps to ensure our bodily functions run smoothly and aids in the elimination of toxins and harmful substances.
Fiber is also needed in the process of detoxifying our body and getting rid of waste products. For an adequate fiber intake, choose whole grains like whole wheat pasta, brown rice or whole oats instead of refined sugars, white flour products and sweetened cereal. These contain not only more nutrients, but the fiber will also help you to feel full longer, maintain more consistent blood sugar levels and leading to a naturally healthy body weight. Fiber in our diet is essential for a healthy gut microbiome, which has an important role in our body’s immune response.
The Importance of Eating Clean, Whole Foods
Besides eating a variety of wholesome foods, choosing un-processed and organic products can further help to support your immune system. Artificial colorings, flavorings, sweeteners or fragrances all mean extra work for your immune system and can contribute to allergies, inflammation or hormonal issues.
By eliminating harmful and un-necessary chemicals not only from your diet, but also from your skin care products, cosmetics and laundry detergent, you allow your immune system to “focus” on it’s real purpose: protecting you from diseases and other damaging environmental factors. We, of course, recommend regeneratively farmed family foods above all, like our Biodynamic applesauce and baby food.
Stress Management to Help Boost Your System
Constant exposure to stress can have a significant impact on your immune system. The reasons why we feel stressed can vary greatly – lack of sleep, pressure at work, personal problems, anxiety and social isolation are just a few examples. But chronic mental stress has a direct effect on our physical wellbeing. The constant release of the hormone Cortisol, which is supposed to put us in “fight or flight” mode and help the body fight inflammation and disease makes our body less responsive to it, resulting in a less efficient immune response when we do get sick.
Getting adequate sleep, practicing breathing exercises, meditation techniques and yoga, talking to friends or seeking professional support are useful steps to apply stress management techniques and can result in a significant improvement in your physical health and overall wellness.
Exercise is another important part in keeping healthy and your immune system strong. While exercising, your body actively works to eliminate stress, and not only your muscles, but also your lungs and your cardiovascular system are getting a workout. If you are new to exercising, start slow and aim to work out for at least 30 minutes three times a week. You do not necessarily need a gym or expensive equipment. Try one of the many online classes available, go for a brisk walk, or dance around the house to your favorite music – anything that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping will do!
Get Outside & Into Nature
Studies have shown that spending time in nature improves our health by reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and energizing the immune system through substances released into the air by plants!
If you are not able to go outside into nature on a regular basis, try to keep your indoor space well ventilated, and open your windows wide several times a day to allow for an exchange of the used air. This is especially important in an environment that is shared with several people, and whenever central heating or air conditioning systems would otherwise circulate used, dry air over and over again.
Personal Hygiene Tips
Many illnesses, viruses and germs spread quickly among people, so practicing good personal hygiene is very important. This includes washing your hands frequently with soap and water, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and keeping utensils, cups and glasses as well as bathroom items such as towels and toothbrushes separate. Check the official guidelines for current recommendations, such as wearing a face mask or carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
By making a habit out of following these guidelines you not only support your immune system temporarily - you are setting the foundation for a long and healthy life from early childhood all the way into old age!
* Disclaimer: this article is to be viewed as opinion and for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses and not a replacement for personalized medical advice. Please always discuss with your doctor if you have any medical concerns and consult with a healthcare professional for advice before starting a new exercise regime, making significant changes to your diet or taking any nutritional supplements *