By: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD
The immune system protects the body from infection and disease. Along with improving your immune system, lifestyle choices can also prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. A diet full of healthy, nutritious, whole foods and plenty of fluids is important for your overall health and will build immunity. Here are some tips to enhance your immunity through eating well, getting enough sleep and water, and avoiding excessive alcohol use.
Eating well provides nutrients that support optimal immune function. It may be beneficial to concentrate on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains & seeds, and fat free or low-fat milk products.
Fruits and vegetables
Full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, these super foods will give you the energy and nutrients your body needs during this vulnerable time.
Try to have some fruit or vegetable with each meal and snack to get the recommended five servings a day. Top your morning cereal or yogurt with fresh blueberries, have an orange as a snack or slice grapes on your salad. Stuff your lunch time wrap with spinach, peppers, and mushrooms, and have steamed broccoli with dinner. Another option is a 100 percent fruit juice popsicle.
A moderate change to protect your heart, such as reducing red meat intake by one serving per day and replacing it with fish, chicken, legumes, or nuts as your protein source can have a positive impact on your health. Focus on eating more plants and healthier animal products and reducing intake of processed.
Grains & Seeds
Whole grains, beans, and legumes tend to be lower in calories and higher in fiber, which help you feel full. Additionally, they lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (also known as the “bad cholesterol”) reduce risk of diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight, which can lower your risk of heart disease.
Nuts and seeds are a reliable source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, zinc, and vitamin E. Stir chopped walnuts into your morning oatmeal, have a handful of almonds as a snack or sprinkle on your salad at lunch or dinner time. Not appetizing? Try a simple cracker that is made of nuts and seeds.
Get Enough Water & Sleep
Get ahead of the game by drinking plenty of water. To help avoid colds or viruses, maintaining adequate hydration is key. Every system in your body depends on water and proper hydration can help to flush toxins, carry nutrients to cells and boost your energy.
Hydration is especially important when you are sick. Fever, vomiting and diarrhea can all cause your body to lose water and lead to dehydration. Fluids ensure that our kidneys and liver, organs that eliminate toxins and foreign bodies, function properly.
If you’re tired of water, green tea is also rich in antioxidants that support the immune system. Add fresh lemon or ginger for an added flavor and a nutritional boost.
Sleep is important for restoration of the body. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. Try to keep a schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day to maintain good sleep hygiene. Having a consistent sleep schedule maintains a circadian rhythm balance so we can enter deeper, more restful sleep.
Avoid Too Much Alcohol
Excessive alcohol use overtime can weaken the immune system. Drink in moderation, meaning limiting intake to 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women.
About the Author: Sophia Speroff, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian of 10 years with her master’s in public health. Sophia has a tremendous background in both community and patient care and population health management. Her background also includes diabetes and chronic disease prevention and management, clinical dietetics, and wellbeing engagement in underserved communities. She has a passion for staying active, training for triathlons and half marathons and in her free time, Sophia enjoys hiking, folk dancing, and gardening.