Food and the Immune System – How Nutrition Affects Your Resilience

If you’ve seen some of the previous articles in this nutrition series, you’ve already noticed that there’s an intricate connection between what we eat and our overall health. From a number of different perspectives, food can either strengthen or hamper our immune system. For instance, consistently choosing foods that contribute to chronic inflammation pushes your immune system into an overdrive.

Overworked and getting no results, the immune system becomes weakened when an external threat in the form of a pathogen arrives. Simply put, if your organism is constantly inflamed, your body is much less likely to efficiently fend for itself in the presence of an actual threat.

Research is showing that this type of chronic inflammation plays a role in most major diseases, from diabetes, cardiovascular issues, all the way to dementia. In the same manner, it’s possible to use nutrition as a way to protect your body and reduce the risk of illness.

Know your enemies

Marketers and label-makers are sneaky. They are obligated to tell you about the content of each product, but reading the ingredients list often feels like a chemistry test. So, it’s wise to learn about the foods and food products that can increase inflammation and impede your immune system.

  • Foods packed with trans fats, also known as “partially hydrogenated oils”, often found in margarine, lard, shortening, coffee creamer, baked goods, fried foods, etc.
  • Sugary drinks such as sodas and even fruit juice overloaded with added sugar for more “flavor”.
  • Refined carbs, such as pizza dough, white bread, pastries, store-bought desserts, many packaged cereals, etc. The term “refined” means the grains used in the making of these products are so overly processed that you’re left with virtually no fiber or nutrients, just empty calories.
  • Processed meat, such as fermented, smoked, cured, salted meats like salami, hotdogs, or bacon.

Diversify your plant intake

You’ve certainly noticed a pattern in the previous list. On the other end of the inflammatory spectrum, you can find whole foods, especially plants, brimming with nutrients, excellent for your gut health, and perfect for boosting your resilience.

  • Antioxidant-rich berries (blueberries, strawberries, you name it) help battle free radical damage linked to inflammation.
  • Green veggies such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach are all excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals that feed your immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, corn, whole wheat, barley, spelt, etc.
  • Herbs and spices – not only do they enhance your meals’ flavor, but they carry many anti-inflammatory properties, too.
  • Nuts and seeds are satiating and rich in micronutrients.
  • Beans and peas are an excellent source of plant protein and have anti-inflammatory potential.
  • Choose local and seasonal foods, preferably organic, that haven’t been overly treated with pesticides and other chemicals that can disrupt your hormones and overall health.

Enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals

If your diet falls short, your immune system doesn’t have the resources to fend off infections. In times of the pandemic, it’s crucial to give your body the extra nutrients to ward off illness, but also to minimize symptoms in case you do catch a cold or a viral, bacterial infection.

  • Vitamins D, E, and A all support your immune system and prevent chronic inflammation when consumed in appropriate amounts.
  • Vitamin C and the mineral zinc are essential for shortening the duration of any infection, as well as its severity. The Immune Active vitamin C and zinc combo gives you that extra boost to stifle inflammation and aid your healthy immune response.
  • Selenium is another mineral that is the perfect ally for your immune system, and most of us don’t consume enough – Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, so two or three tops per day is enough. Any more, and you risk selenium toxicity!
  • Folate contributes to battling inflammation and strengthening your immune system, so load up on beans and lentils, as well as avocado.

Remember – your gut is part of your immunity

A large portion of your entire immune system resides in your gut. This is where the magic happens! A healthy intestinal microbiome allows your body to metabolize and make use of all the good nutrients you consume. If inflamed by poor food choices, your gut flora will likely be too damaged to help protect your health.

That’s why you should also focus on foods that are designed to feed your good bacteria, and that means prebiotics found in fiber-rich fruits and veggies, as well as probiotics in fermented foods. Keeping your gut healthy by eating the rainbow means you’re helping your immune system thrive.

Creating your own anti-inflammatory diet might be a preventative measure, or one that your body desperately needs depending on your current health. With so many confusing labels around and buzzwords to decipher, we can help you keep your diet clean and simple, and use it to fight inflammation. Call us for a consultation and we can get started on your own anti-inflammatory plan today.

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