Did you know you can diet to strengthen your immunity? The best part is that eating for immune health is not rocket science. Our immune systems, like all systems of our body, will function optimally when we cultivate a balanced and nutritious diet.
The four core components of healthy nutrition are water, proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Here's a step-by-step guide to improving your immunity through dietary measures:
- First, there should be a proper balance of the four different components, and a substantial amount of water taken each day (at least eight eight-ounce cups)
- Next, be sure to make whole foods the core of your diet. Eliminate or avoid any processed foods if you want supreme immune function. Processed foods, additives, and sugars wreak havoc on our immunity. Sugar, for example, increases production of mucus, elongating and exacerbating cold symptoms.
- Be sure your protein intake is mostly or entirely plant-based, drawing on rice, legumes, nuts, whole grains and seeds. While animal products do provide complete protein, they are often treated with harmful antibiotics and chemicals and contain unhealthy amounts of fat.
- Carbohydrates should also be unprocessed. Fruits, vegetables, peas, beans and whole grains provide the complex and simple carbs we need to function.
- While unhealthy fats should be limited, fats should make up 20-25% of our daily caloric intake. Seek out healthy fats: Avocadoes, nut butter, seeds, olive oil, and seafood. These healthy fats will help your body to properly absorb essential vitamins and minerals you are consuming with a whole foods diet.
- Purchase organic and ripe produce as much as possible. Produce that is ripe is bursting with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Phytochemicals in plant foods help prevent disease and keep the body healthy.
- Vitamins and minerals are an important component of immunity. Be sure you take in enough of the alphabet! Vitamins A, C, D, and E are all important, as are the B-complex vitamins. Zinc, Boron, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium and Iron are essential minerals. Again, a whole foods diet can provide these nutrients. Fresh, organic, colorful produce and fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, whole grains, limited organic animal protein and ideally raw and organic dairy products can provide these nutrients for you.
How to keep your gut healthy for optimal immunity
Another important component of immune function is based in your gut. A functional human digestive system contains 300-500 different strains of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Bacteria in our intestines actually outnumber the cells in our body, and if put together weigh about as much as our head! These intestinal micro-fauna are responsible for eliminating illness from the body. Taking probiotic supplements is an excellent way to prepare for cold and flu season. A good pro-biotic will contain at least seven different strains as well as 20 billion cells. You can also eat live, cultured foods for gut health, including:
- Fermented vegetables
- Micro-brewed beer
How to boost your immunity with herbs and medicinal mushrooms
Just about any herbal tea will contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals needed for immunity. Some herbs, of course, are strong immune boosters, as are a few powerful medicinal and culinary mushrooms.
- Reishi mushrooms (found at health food stores in teas and tinctures) are antiviral, nourish the nervous system, stimulate the immune system by increasing production of white blood cells and increase vitality.
- Shitake mushrooms are not only delicious in stir-fries, but they also provide a dose of essential minerals like iron and zinc as well as the complex carbohydrate Lentinan, which is antiviral and antimicrobial.
- Echinacea acts as a stimulant to the immune system, and can help our bodies to fight infection. Begin taking echinacea supplements at the onset of any virus or infection.
- Astragalus is also an immune building herb. Start supplementing with Astragalus six weeks before flu season begins to help fight infection.
- Elderberry tea and syrup goes far in preparing our bodies for the onslaught of bugs that we may encounter this season.
Our immune systems are complex and fantastic. Supporting this system with whole foods and potent herbs is our best defense against the illnesses we will all encounter this year.
CATEGORIES: Health, Diet, Alternative Health, Healthy Diet, Immunity, Whole Foods, Boost Immune System, Herbal Supplements, Probiotics