Eating for immunity. While the concept may sound strange, it’s true! The foods we eat can have a huge impact on how our immune systems keep us healthy. How you ask?
An astounding 80% of the body’s immune system is in the gut. In order for our digestive and immune systems to function best, a number of nutrients are required. Fats, carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals are all essential.
Unfortunately, many individuals are consuming fast food, processed and packaged junk foods. Let alone the soft drinks, and massive amounts of sugar and salt. The diet of the average American is the main reason why our country is so sick. The body is getting no quality fuel with which to fight off illness and disease.
So what can we do about it? A balanced diet of fresh, whole foods is the way to go! Some of the most nutritious foods are also the most colorful. The beautiful, bright colors of fresh vegetables and fruits are indicative of their immune boosting qualities.
Brightly colored citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits get a lot of credit for their Vitamin C content. You’ve probably heard that Vitamin C can help prevent or shorten a cold. Did you know that Vitamin C helps your immune system work well even when you aren’t sick? Scientists believe that Vitamin C increases the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. These white blood cells fight infection and other free radicals in the body helping to strengthen immunity.
Citrus fruits do contain sugar, natural though it may be. They are very high on the glycemic scale, so should be consumed in moderation. Try a few fresh, juicy orange wedges on top of a spinach salad with bacon and goat cheese. Yum!
Don’t let unexpected sources of Vitamin C like bell peppers, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower pass you by. Their fiber content also helps to stabilize blood sugar. Raw bell pepper slices dipped in guacamole, or creamy, decadent almost mac n cheese are two delicious ways to get a boost of Vitamin C! The human body does not produce its own Vitamin C, so enjoy a little every day to help prevent illness.
Bright, fresh berries pack a serious antioxidant punch to power the immune system. Antioxidants help the body fight off and protect against free radical damage. Vitamins A, C, and E are actually classified as antioxidants. Enjoy fresh berries with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey for a delicious treat.
Vitamin A is crucial for the health and well-being of your skin. Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A. The skin is often forgotten as a part of the body’s immune system. It is literally your body’s first line of defense against the outside world. Other orange foods like carrots, pumpkin and cantaloupe are also high in this beneficial vitamin.
Vitamin D also contributes to a stronger immune system. Getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D is especially important for diabetics. It stimulates the pancreas and encourages insulin production, thereby helping to keep blood sugar under better control.
Vitamin D can be found in greens like spinach, and in the bright yellow of egg yolks. Believe it or not, salmon and shrimp are also quite high in vitamin D, (along with containing heart healthy Omega 3 fats.)
The bright green, creamy flesh of the avocado make it a nutritional powerhouse and perhaps the most super of the super foods. The avocado is near perfection – plenty of healthy fat, but fiber as well. Fiber is another essential nutrient in maximizing immune function.
Fiber serves many purposes for the body. It helps to regulate blood sugar and prevents the absorption of cholesterol. Fiber is also responsible for promoting gut health and regularity. All of these benefits are especially helpful for individuals with diabetes. Without fiber our digestive tract suffers, therefore, immunity is compromised. Fiber also lowers blood sugar naturally by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
Avoiding the consumption of sugar is also crucial to improving immunity. Research has found that sugar can negatively affect the body’s immune system. It specifically hinders the ability to fight off bacterial infections. Yet one more way sugar is making us sick… literally! One important thing to note is that as a diabetic, high blood sugar is already compromising your immune system.
Keeping blood sugar under control is a huge way to improve immune strength. Think about it – if your body is less occupied by trying to keep your blood sugar at safe levels, it has more resources available to fight other things. By managing diabetes, you also reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Managing blood sugar now is a long-term investment in health for years to come.
By including plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits in our diets, we can not only improve immunity, but lower blood sugar and improve overall health. Be it avocado or sweet potato, bell pepper or spinach, including immune boosting foods in our diets is a great way to feel better and live healthier!