No one plans on getting sick, but this winter friends and family seem to be dropping like flies with this latest bug going around. So how do you protect yourself from catching it?
Boost your immune system now, don’t wait until you start to get sick to think about it.
A healthy immune system can withstand the exposure and onslaught of contagious bugs much easier. Certainly genetics plays a part in our ability to stay healthy but our lifestyle has the greatest effect. A strong immune system offers protection by:
- Creating a physical barrier against harmful microorganisms.
- Carrying out a “search and destroy mission” to eliminate those that make it into our bodies.
- Preventing dangerous bacteria and virus from reproducing.
- Triggering the destruction of damaged cells.
Factors that can weaken our internal defense system include stress, lack of physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle habits, aging, and a diet of nutritionally depleted foods. Fortunately, many of these we can control but good nutrition is essential. What you eat becomes your body, so if you don’t take care of it—the most magnificent machine that you will ever be given—where are you going to live? Here are some fabulous foods to put in your tank that will fuel you safely through this cold and flu season.
SUPERFOODS are some of the most nutrient dense foods available. They contain phytochemicals that are found to be protective against disease. There are entire books devoted to superfoods as just about every brightly colored fruit and vegetable fits the category, as do nuts, beans, seeds, and aromatic and brightly colored herbs and spices. You can incorporate some in your meal planning while others could be taken as nutritional supplements. Here are some of the best:
Wild Caught Salmon–high in Omega 3. Anchovies, mackerel, sardines, and herring are high in Omega 3 as well.
Green Superfoods–these have the highest concentration of digestible nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and include dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, broccoli, and spinach. Supergreens such as wheatgrass and barley grass are even more nutrient dense.
Beans–chili beans are among the best, as are lentils.
Whole Grains–quinoa is highest in protein and gluten free. Barley and oats are among the other healthy choices.
Green and White Teas–both high in antioxidants.
Fruits–kiwi (highest in Vitamin C), berries (high in antioxidants), pomegranate, and avocados. Superfruits like mangosteen (www.earthsjuice.com), goji, acai, and cacao are the highest in antioxidants.
Dark chocolate–we’re talking about organically grown, least 73% cacao, and single square per day, not a whole bar.
Nuts and Seeds–almonds and walnuts are some of the best nuts. Walnuts also contain Omega 3. Superseeds include flaxseed, hemp and chia seeds.
Bee Food (pollen, honey, jelly)–The western world discovered the benefits of bee superfoods during an investigation of native Russian beekeepers who regularly lived past 100 years of age. They ate raw honey, rich in bee pollen, every day. Must be raw, unpasteurized honey to get the health benefits.
Seaweeds (sea vegetables)–hiziki, wakame, kombu (kelp), arame, and nori are the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet. They contain up to ten-times more calcium than milk and eight-times as much as beef. Their chemical composition is so close to human blood plasma that perhaps their greatest benefit is regulating and purifying our blood system.
Fermented Foods–yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut, pickles, sourdough breads, unpasteurized vinegars, or acidophilus supplements provide extra probiotic support. Our intestines are one of the first lines of defense against viral and bacterial infections. Probiotics help to encourage friendly bacteria and prevent unwelcome bugs from getting established in our bodies.
Herbs and Spices–turmeric, curcumin, rosemary, cinnamon, capsicum found in peppers, aloe vera, ginseng, echinacea, and nettle to name just a few. Herbs have been used for centuries as part of natural healing methods. Herbs used as medicine are essentially body balancers that help to heal and regulate the body.
SUFFUCIENT REST is also essential for a strong immune system. Our best rest begins around 10pm or 11pm. The first sleep period will be your deepest and it’s important you stay asleep for several hours. You should wake up naturally 6-8 hours later depending on your own sleep cycle. With proper rest, the body and mind can complete the natural cycles of cleansing, healing, detoxifying, and resetting.
STAYING ACTIVE is another immune strengthening skill. Going to the gym on a regular basis to work on strength training or core work is great, but also include outdoor activities that you enjoy. In addition to the exercise, you’ll be getting fresh air and sunshine too. And remember that taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you have a chance also supports your healthy lifestyle. Whether you are age 25 or 65, strive to be as healthy and as engaged in life as you can be and you’ll enjoy great health.
Chef Suzanne Landry is author of The Passionate Vegetable and Fresh Food Matters available at www.ThePassionateVegetable.com or Amazon, Whole Foods, and several other local retailers in Santa Barbara.
Photos from Stockfreeimages.com