A strong immune system has many components, including a healthy daily diet. Here are some everyday foods you can eat to help you stay healthy through the winter.
The body’s immune system is it’s first defense against illness. When it comes to preventing colds, flus or even the coronavirus, keeping the body strong and healthy is of utmost importance. You don’t need to reach for expensive vitamins and supplements to keep your body strong. There are many healthy foods that you’ll find easy to incorporate into your daily diet and weight loss program.
What makes an immune system strong?
When it comes to keeping your immune system strong and thriving, several components are important to keep in mind. The immune system isn’t single faceted, but a complete system in the body that depends on a lot of factors to function well. Some of the main ways you can help your immune system stay strong are:
- Get enough sleep
- Quit smoking cigarettes (or don’t start)
- Exercise regularly
- Try to minimize stress
- Practice good hygiene-washing hands, etc.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
- Eat a variety of natural, healthy foods-especially fruits and vegetables
- Keep sugar intake low, avoid unnatural sources
Working on all of the above areas can help keep your immune system strong and ready to fight off any illness or infection, but when it comes to eating healthy some foods are definitely superior in their immune-boosting qualities. Focus on foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. The key is getting a good variety of these foods to keep each of these nutrients strong in your body.
“Antioxidant” is a word used a lot in the health and fitness world. But what does it really mean? Broken down, according to veryhealthy.life, the anti means against and oxidant refers to something that will chemically combine with oxygen. This means that antioxidants prevent oxidation against free radicals. When there are free radicals within the body they can cause a chain reaction that causes damage to the cells. Antioxidants can help keep your cells strong against this free radical damage. Some popular foods that are high in antioxidants are:
- Raspberries, cherries, apricots, cranberries and watermelon
- Broccoli, spinach, artichokes,
- Rosemary, oregano, thyme
- Kidney beans
- Acai powder
- Allspice, cinnamon, cocoa powder
By combining many of these fresh fruits, vegetables and spices together, there are many easy and creative ways to get more antioxidant rich foods into your diet.
Vitamin C might be the most common vitamin known to fight illness and aid in recovery well. Because the body cannot produce or store vitamin c, it has to be sourced through the diet, and finding daily sources in a variety of foods can help ensure you are getting enough. When you think of vitamin c you might immediately think of oranges or other citrus, but many other foods are high in vitamin c that may not have come to your mind. Here are some great healthy food options that give a boost of vitamin c:
- Red pepper, green pepper, green chile pepper
- Oranges, strawberries, papaya, guava
- Broccoli, potato, brussels sprouts, cauliflower
- Lemon, grapefruit, kiwifruit, mango
Vitamin D has been known for many years to promote bone growth and absorb calcium. Recent studies have also shown a link between vitamin D and other important body functions, including a healthy immune system response. “Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. These studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease” (webmd). The body can produce vitamin D, but only after skin exposure to sunlight for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, those who live in less sunny climates can be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Even those who live in sunny areas may still have vitamin D deficiency if they spend a majority of their time indoors. Recent studies have been conducted on the potential role vitamin D may have in the immune response to COVID-19. Although more research needs to be done, studies show positive results that link vitamin D to the immune system strength needed to fight the coronavirus and other diseases. If you are not able to get enough sunlight daily, these foods can help to supplement vitamin D in your body:
- Herring, sardines, cod liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals and oatmeal.
Getting vitamin D from all natural sources such as the sun and natural healthy foods is always the best way to give the body what it needs on a daily basis.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in the body, including slowing the aging process and providing an antioxidant barrier against free radicals. The body doesn’t need large amounts of this mineral for healthy function, so it is an easy nutrient to supplement with a healthy diet. Keep in mind that animal foods are the best sources of zinc compared to plant foods, like vegetables, because zinc bioavailability (the fraction of zinc that’s retained and used by the body) is high in foods like animal meat and seafood (draxe.com). That doesn’t mean animal foods are the only source, but combining animal and plant sources can help guarantee you’re getting all you need in your daily diet. Some of the foods highest in zinc are:
- Grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken
- Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, cashews
- Chickpeas, lentils, almonds
- Kefir, yogurt, ricotta cheese
- Mushrooms, spinach, avocado
By working at maintaining a healthy immune system through the winter months, you can do your best to stay strong and able to fight any viruses that come your way. Choosing a variety of foods from all of these categories will help you feel better, stay stronger and promote healthy weight loss as part of your overall diet plan. Holistic health is not just about weight loss or physical appearance, but about the functions of the entire body. By keeping all of your systems strong you can feel better from the inside out.