What can we do right now to boost the immune system through the foods we eat? Eating healthy along with lifestyle habits is the best defense against getting sick. It is going to be different each of us depending on our situations and our availability to foods. Here are some strategies and food lists that that we can apply right now. Since the luxury of dining out is not an option, what better time to get healthy!
Foods can modulate or promote anti-inflammatory pathways, and strengthen gastrointestinal balance which is 70-80% of the immune system. Foods provide essential nutrients, and bioactive compounds that can actually fight off assault and turning on defense mechanisms that can improve immune response. We will talk about a few other lifestyle habits to maintain immune health as well but for now let’s start with food.
Under the current circumstances we aren’t going to harp on organics but know that roundup on food is not good so wash produce thoroughly. At my house, when we shop, we bring all the produce in, wash it well and let it totally dry. Then place it in the refrigerator or storage.
If you have food sensitivities, make a list of the foods you can eat. If you are gluten or dairy free substitute bread with GF/DF options. Vegetarians or Vegans can adapt menus as well.
-3 or 4 days of simple meals to rotate. Keep those food ingredients on hand to sustain your supplies. Simple meals are going to easier to make so plan meals with a healthy variation and sprinkle in the super ingredients listed below. Dave’s organic bread or Ezekiel breads are great to keep frozen.
-Shop and try to get 2 weeks of food at a time. Stock up on staples like beans (canned and dry), rice, pasta, oatmeal, hard cheese, bread to freeze, organic frozen meals and pizza, cans of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, flour, etc.
-Make enough for leftovers to eat for a few days.
-Have at least 2 vegetable options everyday like a big mixed salad, a couple of cups of cooked vegetables, lean proteins from eggs, chicken, or meat, plant fats, and at least 2 servings of fruit. These foods are the touchstone for immune health. See some simple suggestions below but come up with your own!
Simple Meal Ideas:
Oatmeal, fruit, and nuts (mix in an egg or protein powder if desired)
Eggs, toast, and fruit
Toast with nut butters and fruit
Green Smoothie with frozen banana, spinach, milk or milk substitute, protein powder, nut butter, a little honey, and ice. Blend. You can also make ice cream with your smoothie, freeze it and eat later.
Breakfast pudding: Mix together one cup of yogurt, ½ cup rolled oats, honey, a dash of cinnamon, fruit or apple sauce and nuts. Refrigerate overnight. Yum.
Chicken, tuna, or salmon salad (from canned meat) Or make your own with a whole chicken. Chopped onion, celery, and mayo. Roll up in a tortilla or sandwich with a slice of avocado, tomato, and a lettuce leaf.
Egg Salad, with spinach on whole grain bread or roll-up. Strawberries
Grill Cheese with sliced tomato, and carrot sticks, grapes or apple slices
Homemade stews and soups (store several batches in the freezer)
Peanut butter and jelly with banana on whole grain bread
Big salad with hard boiled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, fresh herbs, cucumbers, nuts, and raisins, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with cheese.
Available meat or poultry stir fry with ginger, broccoli, carrots, and green onions over rice. Fresh fruit.
Spaghetti, and steamed, grilled or roasted vegetables, salad.
Meat, fish, or poultry, roasted vegetables, rice, potatoes or beans. This variation is simple and could be rotated with different foods nightly. Certainly simple.
Fajitas or taco salad with ground lean meat, kidney beans, red onion, bell pepper, avocado, and shredded cheese. Use salsa and yogurt as a dressing and serve with whole wheat tortillas.
Fruit, Homemade oatmeal peanut butter bars (recipe on netnutritionist FB page), yogurt, kambucha, olives, organic baby cookies and fruit, banana or apple and peanut butter, hummus and crackers, nuts (keep lots of nuts on hand since they can be ordered on the internet), dried fruit and nut mixes, organic popcorn snacks, seaweed chips, dehydrated vegetables and dip.
If you have access to foods below, keep them on hand. The ones in red are particularly beneficial as medicine. They are anti-inflammatory, rich in bio-actives, fiber, vital nutrients, and support the gut and immune defense.
Fruit: (Frozen is optional if fresh is not available)
Oranges, tangerines, berries, bananas, melons, apples, grapes
Vegetables: (Frozen is optional but fresh if possible)
Green leafy romaine, red leaf, herbs, spinach
Cruciferous vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts. Especially important to eat weekly or as often as possible. I keep broccoli salad on hand and keep adding to it. See https://www.netnutritionist.com/confetti-broccoli-salad/
Root vegetables, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes
Garlic, onions, fresh ginger
Starches: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, beans (dried and canned), lentils, and whole grains
Plant Fats: Nuts and seeds (pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia, peanuts, etc), olive oil, avocado, olives, flaxseeds and oil
Protein: Eggs, lean poultry, beef, fish, wild meat canned or frozen tuna, salmon, chicken, and protein powder
Other fats: whipped butter
Dairy or Non-Dairy: Milk or non-dairy alternatives like almond, coconut, or organic soy milk. Yogurt see how to make your own https://www.netnutritionist.com/homemade-plain-yogurt/
Other foods: Fermented foods, yogurt, kefir, kambucha, homemade bone broths; herbs oregano, basil, parsley, dill; Spices turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, Frozen organic meals or pizzas.
-Make soups, stews, and sauces and freeze. Think and plan ahead.
-Eat foods rich in nutrients that support a strong immune system protein, Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin D, magnesium, and selenium. If you are not getting a variety of nutrient rich foods, take a high qualtiy multivitamin that contains these nutrients, and a probiotic.
Timing of Meals
-Eat at the same time daily.
-Consider time restricted eating to cut down on overeating and to give your digestion rest. There is evidence that intermittent fasting can improve the immune system. For example, eat breakfast at 8, a snack in the afternoon at 4, and dinner and a snack by 8. This practice can also help to reserve food supply.
For physical resilience it is essential to boost the immune system by:
-Getting Restful Sleep (7-8 hours). Turn off your Wi-fi at night to lower the excitatory stimulus.
-Exercising (walk in the neighborhood or park, or around your house, do you tube videos, dig out any exercise equipment). Take time to practice deep breathing just 1 minute a day. Try to get out in the fresh air and play.
-Reducing stress through prayer, meditation, and creativity. Do NOT let fear take over your consciousness. Get away from scary media, breath, and calm. Know that it will all be okay.
-Pooping daily! Regular bowel movements (keeping bowels moving removes toxic waste from the body) to reduce toxic burden
-Staying hydrated. Drink water from a filtered source and not in plastic if possible but drink!
-Connecting with friends virtually. Reach out to all you love and help each other cope with the anxiety. Loneliness can lead to chronic stress, depression, and isolation.
-Eating Food as Medicine to keep the immune system strong. Avoid junky, sugary, packaged foods and alcohol as much as possible.
-Reducing inflammation. Major ways to reduce inflammation (and boosting the immune system) are to reduce exposure to wi-fi, we are all on overload right now connected more than ever. There is strong evidence Wi-fi is dangerous to our health, increasing inflammation, reducing quality sleep, low immune function and chronic illness. Turn off your Wi-fi at night.
-Practice deep breathing when you wake up in the morning before leaving the bed. Deep breathing enhances the immune system and calms inflammation.
-Taking time to clean out the garden of your life…literally reduce the clutter, clean your home, or surroundings to create beauty. Reflect on life by learning to stay quiet, still and calm..
Note: When this is over and life returns to the new normal…keep up the self care for the next round. Learn about your DNA and what your specific biochemical needs are. Take control of your health and well-being.