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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eating for Immunity

It’s that time of year when we feel like we are surrounded by sickness – ourselves, our coworkers, friends or family members all seem to be no more than  2 weeks removed from  the cold or flu.  So how can we keep our immunity strong amid the flurry of bacteria and viruses that surround us?

  • The nutrient that is most famous for fending off illness has to be Vitamin C.  And while vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help improve our nutrition-immune response, it’s not the only player in the game. 

  • All those lovely orange-yellow fruits and veggies provide beta-carotene which your body then converts into the active form of Vitamin A.  It is also a strong antioxidant and is healthiest coming from foods.  Large doses of Vitamin A from supplement-sources can be harmful and build up in your body, so aim to up your fruit and veggie intake to optimize your antioxidant nutrition.

  • There are two minerals that stand out when it comes to fighting illness.  Zinc is the most well-know immune-boosting mineral.  Again, food sources are safest – some evidence suggests that too much zinc (more than 75 mg/day) can actually inhibit the immune response, so stick with wholesome food sources such as beef, beans, and fortified cereals.

  • Selenium is a lesser-known but very powerful immune-boosting mineral.  It is found in fish, whole gains, sunflower seeds and my favorite – garlic! 

  • Get enough sleep.  This may be the toughest recommendation out there, but there is no substitute for it.  If you are feeling drowsy during the day, you’re probably not getting enough sleep (you can’t blame it on your boring work routine).
  • Stay hydrated.  The question of how much water we need isn’t as simple as a one-size fit’s all equation.  No two people have the same hydration needs and those needs will vary from day to day depending on activity level, temperature, and presence of illness or stress.  The best indicator is frequency and color of urine.  6-7 times per day, and very pale in color – should not be decidedly yellow.

Unfortunately, some people struggle with accepting simple guidelines and continually search for the new, flashy, complex or expensive solutions to good health.  

It all boils down to simple, sensible, tried-and-true nutrition advice:

1. Eat more plants - fruits, veggies and whole grains

2. Get plenty of sleep

3. Drink more water

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