As cold and flu rears its ugly head, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do to boost your immunity. When it comes to holistic health, the focus should be on healing from the inside out. In other words, giving your body the tools it needs to help your immune system work effectively. You will want to eat a healthy diet for stronger immune system.
For your body to function at optimal levels, you need to eat a well-balanced and varied diet that provides plenty of nutrients. If you’ve been struggling with creating a healthy diet plan that keeps your immune system sharp, here are some helpful tips and insights to get you started.
How Your Diet Impacts Your Immune System
Everything you eat can be broken down into two overarching categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the food sources you require in large quantities to survive. They include fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
While macronutrients are where the focus lies for most modern diets, micronutrients play an essential role behind the scenes. Just because they are required in lesser quantities doesn’t negate their importance.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that you get through food sources. Each micronutrient plays a part in how your body operates, whether it’s fighting inflammation, aiding with digestion, keeping your eyes adequately moistened, or helping your immune system combat germs.
Despite having a 40% adult obesity rate, the USA is largely undernourished. 31% of the USA is at risk for a micronutrient deficiency, with the most prevalent deficiencies being in iron, folate, magnesium, and vitamins E, D, C, B12, B6, and A.
What causes this contradiction between the 24% increase in calorie intake since 1961 and the drastic drop in nutrient quality?
The best way to boost your immune system and your overall health is to eat a diet filled mostly with nutrient-rich, minimally-processed foods. In other words, eat ingredients, not food that has ingredients when you purchase it.
Immune Boosting Foods
While having a well-rounded diet filled with lean protein, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains will cause an improvement in your immunity, some foods stand above the rest. While you work toward improving your overall eating habits, consider starting by adding these foods to your daily intake.
Citrus fruit is filled with easy-to-digest Vitamin C. This makes it one of the prime contenders for an immune-boosting diet, as Vitamin C strengthens the immune system by assisting with white blood cell production.
As Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, your body excretes the excess, taking only what it needs. Eating whole fruit or adding citrus to a smoothie is preferable to drinking juice, which removes the beneficial fiber (also great for your immune system) and often has added sugar. Try clementines, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and tangerine for a nice dose of Vitamin C.
Few people realize that oranges aren’t the only fantastic source of Vitamin C. Bell peppers have significantly more Vitamin C than citrus. In fact, where 100 grams of orange has 53mg of Vitamin C, the same 100 grams of bell peppers yields 243mg of Vitamin C.
So, adding a handful of chopped bell peppers– red, green, yellow, orange, it doesn’t matter– to your next salad will have an instant immune-boosting benefit.
There’s a lot of controversial information about dairy online and how it can impact your immune system. However, most health professionals agree that the benefits of yogurt far outweigh the conspiracies about dairy products.
It’s not the dairy itself that’s beneficial in yogurt, but rather the bacteria. Plain Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, which can improve gut health. More on that later.
Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of fat that should be a staple in modern diets. Almonds, in particular, are rich in Vitamin E. While Vitamin E is often overshadowed by Vitamin C in the immunity-boosting world, it plays an important part as it is a potent antioxidant.
This fat-soluble vitamin requires healthy fat to be digested. Additionally, it’s one to be mindful of when supplementing as you could potentially overdose; fat-soluble vitamins aren’t excreted like water-soluble vitamins.
Popeye was onto something when he downed cans of spinach to get strong. Spinach is rich in Vitamin C, as well as Beta Carotene. It’s also an incredible source of iron, making it ideal for plant-based eaters.
Spinach is best served raw for nutrient absorption. It can be added to fruit smoothies in significant quantities without impacting the flavor, especially when you add in citrus fruit. If the color of a green smoothie deters you, invest in an opaque cup and reusable stainless steel straw to drink from.
Other Health Considerations
While the food you consume does play an integral role in your immune system, it’s not the only thing to consider. Here are some other areas to improve while you work on your diet.
As previously mentioned, introducing healthy bacteria to the body is integral for increased immunity. What few people understand is that much of the immune system is controlled from the gut. In fact, your gut has its own nervous system.
The enteric nervous system controls essential aspects of digestion, hormone regulation, and immune responses. By eating foods that reduce inflammation and maintaining a healthy level of gut flora, you ensure that your immunity is up to snuff for the coming flu season.
What should be the most natural part of staying healthy is often the most difficult. Your body does its best work to heal when you’re asleep. As you become sleep deprived, your hormones get unbalanced, and your immune system gets compromised.
In addition to focusing on a diet filled with nutritious food, implement a sleep routine that helps you get the recommended eight hours a night.
Drinking water is another task that should be easy but causes people to struggle. Water ensures your body is working as it should, aiding digestion and improving cellular function.
Many people get confused by the recommended eight glasses of fluid per day. Drinks with caffeine, like coffee, can be a diuretic that dehydrates you as you drink. If you don’t like drinking plain water, dress it up with mint leaves or citrus for a healthy bonus.
Eating well and weight management go hand-in-hand. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces damage to the immune system and lessens the risk of detrimental diseases and illnesses that could compromise you.
As you work on improving your diet, start implementing more movement. Exercise has a dose effect, meaning that even a little bit is better than nothing. Start with micro-movements: get up from your desk and walk for five minutes every hour, for example.
Tips for Eating an Immune Boosting Diet
Now that you know what to do, you have to figure out how. Here are some effective strategies for improving your immunity-boosting diet.
Use a Meal Planning Service
Meal planning and prep is a huge challenge for many people. Using a meal planning or delivery service can remove that barrier for healthy eating. Take some time to read Nutrisystem reviews or look for oven-ready meals at your grocery store.
Create Sustainable Healthy Habits
The reason most people fail at improving their diet is that they get too restrictive all at once. Rather than doing a complete overhaul from one day to the next, start implementing sustainable healthy habits.
Maybe today, the only change you make is to add spinach to your smoothies. Then next week, once that’s a routine, you focus on drinking more water. Take it slow, build a base, and work upward.
Focus on Whole Foods
As stated previously, eat food that is ingredients rather than food that has ingredients. If it comes in a package or box with words you can’t understand on the label, it’s not a whole food.
You don’t have to give up everything you love to be healthy. Just try to make some changes and improvements. If you can get to a place where you eat whole foods 90% of the time, then the indulgences 10% of the time won’t matter.
Make Healthy Food Accessible
The best strategy for improving your eating habits is to make healthy eating convenient and unhealthy food inconvenient. For example, getting rid of cookies and chips in your house and having apples and pears ready to grab. This is also an effective method for helping your children learn to eat better as well.
Health Begets Health – Healthy Diet For Stronger Immune System
The key to boosting your immune system is taking a holistic approach to health. While the food you eat plays a notable role in your immunity, other aspects of your life also impact your health. Focus on eating well, drinking lots of water, moving more, maybe even trying a self defense course, and letting your body rest. By doing so, you’ll get through cold and flu season with your health intact.