Don’t wait until it’s too late! With winter around the corner it’s time to up your nutritional game and put some steps in place to keep your immune system and energy levels strong.
Preserving and improving your nutritional status is vital if you want to obtain a strong immune system. “Let food be thy medicine”, is something I strongly believe in. Food has the ability to help support our bodies needs through times when common winter illnesses start to sneak upon us.
Here are my top 10 diet and lifestyle tips to keep a strong and balanced immune system so you can stay healthy and avoid infections.
- Eat a well-balanced diet
Eat real and whole foods! Lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, legumes and some organic or grass-fed meat. These will provide you with ample nutrients from a variety of amazing ingredients.
- Up your vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient when it comes to the immune system. It helps to reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system to fight off pathogens. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body so we need to consume it every day. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, leafy greens, capsicum and broccoli. Quality supplements can also be highly beneficial when taken correctly.
- Soak up some sun
Vitamin D plays a number of roles in promoting a healthy immune system. Try to go outside a few times a week for 10-20 minutes, without sunscreen and expose yourself in the sun. You can also get small amounts in foods such as egg yolks, oily fish, and organic butter.
- Increase zinc content
Zinc is vital for a strong immune system. Insufficient intake of this mineral can lead to poor resistance to infection and slow healing. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, lamb, and beef. The best plant sources are seeds (especially pumpkin seeds). Supplementation could be beneficial but seek professional advice for this.
- Support your gut
Consume friendly bacteria in your foods. It’s known 70-80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system. Beneficial mico-organisms settle in our intestinal, upper respiratory and lower urinary tracts. Friendly bacteria out-compete the ‘bad guys’ and improve immune function. Probiotics are a great way to go, otherwise consume whole and fermented foods such as kefir, kombutcha, sauerkraut, kimchi or miso.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night
This is a must! Sleep deprivation activates a stress response, supressing immune function and elevating inflammatory chemicals.
- Increase dietary protein
Our immune system is made up of proteins and relies on new protein synthesis to function properly. Protein is composed of amino acids which your body needs for growth and repair.
- Manage your stress
Stress puts a lot of pressure of our adrenal glands, forcing them to pump out stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin), which suppress the immune system. Find ways to de-stress daily, even for 5-10 minutes. Diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, yoga are some great options which are very effective.
- Use herbs and spices
Cook with onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric, black pepper, curry powder. They all contain components that help to boost the immune system.
- Drink plenty of clean water
Stay hydrated! Water helps in the production of lymph, which carries white blood cells and other immune system cells. For an extra boost, add a slice of lemon, for extra vitamin C.
Don’t forget to laugh and have fun! Laughing decreases the amount of stress hormones in our bodies, and smiling makes your body think it’s happy; which can in effect boost our mood and immunity! So relish the chilly, cosy months, it’s so important to take some time out for yourself to stay healthy and enjoy life.