Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, stay home when you feel ill. We’re hearing that all over the place these days, but what about your biggest defense: your immune system? We asked our friend Whitney Stuart (a board-certified dietitian-nutritionist and certified diabetic educator) to walk us through how to keep our support systems strong now and forevermore. Whitney is a StudioHopper herself, lives in Dallas, Texas, and she believes in the healing power of real food, empowerment and education. She applies all of these things through her practice, Whitness Nutrition, which offers full-spectrum nutritional assessment, corporate wellness and community-facing education programs. Whitney, take it from here!
Coronavirus aside, your immunity is important through all seasons! Stocking up on Emergen-C, hand sanitizer & bleach? Consider implementing the following recommendations for year round benefits.
Avoid eating a Western Diet
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is associated with numerous health risks including a compromised microbiome and immune function. The majority of Americans eat a diet full of highly processed foods, which are high in saturated fat, sodium, and refined sugar.
Why avoid? This diet skimps on whole, minimally processed foods, where all your natural benefits are sourced from! Processed, simple sugars reduce white blood cell phagocytosis (the process that removes pathogens; AKA their most important job), and possibly increase inflammatory markers. Sodium and saturated fats have a similar effect.
Instead fuel with real, nutrient-rich foods, that are loaded with nutrients including omega-3s, fiber, and phytochemicals.
What you eat, not what you supplement with, is what most readily builds your defenses. Aim to get daily sources of immune-boosting micronutrients from the food you eat! And surprisingly, Vitamin C (like your Emergen-C) does not actually help you to avoid developing colds and flu- it only helps to reduce the duration of the illness.
Before you grab a random one-a-day multivitamin off the shelf or a smarty pants gummy, consider what the bulk of your diet is made of? Is it teeming in natural sources of nutrients? Example: wild tuna or salmon for a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, wild and grass-fed meat and cage-free eggs for your essential amino acids? Are you eating almonds, walnuts & flaxseeds to obtain your essential fatty acids? What about grass-fed beef, beans or whole grains for iron and B vitamins?
Start there. Then, if you need to supplement, ensure that it contains no sugar, soy and actually meet your daily needs in a reasonable serving size. RD tip: gummy vitamins are more candy than anything else.
Eat bright and seasonal:
Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system. Boost your immunity by including Vitamin A, C & protein in your eating plan. Eat seasonal for a boost in nutrients, as these produce options are more fresh and get longer time to develop before harvesting (bonus, they’re usually more affordable).
-Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Find rich sources of this in sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots and eggs.
-Get real sources of Vitamin C from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, meat, chicken, beans and lentils.
-Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Start your day with some cage free eggs, add in wild fish, grass-fed meat (fresh or frozen will do!) and Greek Yogurt as a snack.
-Start with a strong day. Let breakfast be the first opportunity of the day to swap refined, sugary grains such as pancakes, waffles, bagels, sweetened cereals, and more healthful starts with whole grain toast with avocado and pumpkin seeds, or sauteed sweet potato with a poached egg and smoked salmon.
-Instead of drinking sweetened beverages (soda, juice, sweetened tea with honey,maple or agave), try alternatives of home-brewed teas, and waters flavored with herbs like mint and basil or citrus
-Maintain fluids through teas with herbs and spices, sparkling water, and plain old h20.
And, always be wary of who you take immunity tips from.