Feeling under the weather can have a huge impact on every area of our lives - no one likes to be ill. Our bodies are constantly exposed to bacteria, germs and viruses that are trying to invade and attack. However, thanks to our immune system, our bodies are always ready to protect us from any sort of harm. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that you eat the right foods to help boost your immune system.
Diet has a huge impact on disease risk in general. With a healthy immune system, even if an infection invades your body, it’s usually a matter of time before it can fight it off. “As many as 30 percent of all cancers are linked to poor dietary habits,” says Anna Taylor, lead outpatient clinical dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic's Centre for Human Nutrition. But don’t worry, Fushi is here to tell you exactly how your immune system is, and how you can tailor your diet to support your immune system. Consider this your guide to eating your way to top tier immunity.
How does your immune system work?
Our immune system is extremely complicated! It’s made up of many different cells in the blood and receptors all over our body that interact as part of a delicate balance to ensure that we effectively fight off germs like viruses, while avoiding attacking our own body tissues.
What are signs of a weak immune system?
Before we try and figure out how to 'boost' our immune system, how do we know if it needs a bit of help in the first place? Some people have an overactive immune system and may experience "autoimmune disease" where their immune cells target their own organs causing diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis, over or under active thyroid disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Then others may have an underactive immune system, and that is harder to define. There is also immune functioning on a spectrum meaning some people may catch coughs and colds more frequently, whereas others may experience a more severe illness than someone with a higher functioning immune system. Lastly, genetic diseases which cause a person to be immunocompromised, and some medications such as cancer, or transplant drugs can suppress the immune system.
What Is A Superfood?
Although there’s no standardised, scientifically-backed criteria for what makes a food a superfood, they are generally known to be nutrient-rich foods that are thought to do a body good. They are believed to be nutritionally dense and contain a variety of nutrients such as vitamins, fibre and antioxidants that can benefit your overall health. You and your family are probably already incorporating some of these foods into your meals without even knowing it!
How Do Superfoods Boost Your Immune System?
Regular exercise, not smoking, limiting how much alcohol you consume and making sure you get a good night’s sleep are all key in supporting your immune system. However, one of the biggest ways you can support your immunity is to eat a healthy diet.
One way to boost your immune system is through a plant-based diet or eating healthy, antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. People who eat a diet rich in vegetables and other plant-based items show more effective white blood cells. This is important for your immune system because white blood cells produce antibodies to help the immune system fight off any viruses, bacteria etc, hence why you want to have healthy white blood cells. While no one food is a silver bullet for optimal immune system function, these superfoods have been studied for their potential positive effects on our immune systems.
If you’re looking for ways to prevent colds, the flu, and other infections, your first step should be a visit to your local supermarket to get these powerful immune system boosters;
11 Superfoods For Strong Bones
You have to be strong and healthy from the inside as well as the outside. Specific superfoods help maintain the pH balance of your body. Many believe that the main source of osteoporosis is not having enough calcium in their diet. This is a condition where your bone strength weakens and is susceptible to fracture. It usually affects the hip, wrist or spine. However, in reality, calcium is only a small part of it - vitamin D and calcium are said to be the most important for strong bones. Calcium is required for strengthening your bones but vitamin D is also needed for extracting and absorbing the calcium from your food. So, they are both essential for the body.
Cake, sweets, fizzy drinks and other refined foods may be contributing to weaker bone health. It’s best to avoid having any white flour, processed sugars, added sugars, breads and any other things which are made out of refined carbs to prevent losing your bone mass. In fact, the main dietary source of osteoporosis is eating foods which are highly acidic in nature, like these. The over consumption of these products causes the pH level in your blood to eventually become quite acidic. So in order to balance this out, the body reaches out for just about any calcium and magnesium and it discharges those into your bloodstream in an effort to help keep the pH in balance;
- Tomatoes help in avoiding disorders such as osteogenesis and assists in the formation of collagen.
- Garlic contains sulphur compounds and the amino and fatty acids in garlic are necessary for rebuilding collagen fibres that may be damaged.
- Avocados are rich in minerals. The potassium found in avocados helps in keeping the salt balance inside the skeleton system as it offers an alkaline environment to neutralise the amount of acid in your body. Avocado oil can even be used on salads and recipes as a way to get the benefits of this mineral.
- Kiwi is an excellent supply of vitamin C, it can aid in the treatment of disorders like scurvy.
- Broccoli is another excellent supply of calcium and vitamin C.
- Orange aids in the salt balance and orange juice is also an excellent supply of vitamin D which helps in the absorption and metabolism inside the bone.
- Kale is a vegetable which contains lutein - an antioxidant that helps to stop the formation of free radicals, which may intervene in the collagen generation. So, kale helps in the collagen formation and will help in preventing bone disorders.
- Spinach is regarded as the healthiest among ‘superfoods’. Potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins, fibre and the magnesium contents allow it to be brilliant to get healthy and strong bones.
- Sesame Seeds are packed with nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D and K. You may scatter these on salads or cooked vegetables
- Turmeric includes an ingredient called curcumin that acts as an immune modulator influencing the key immune cells (T cells, B cells, and Natural Killer cells). Curcumin also appears to regulate pro-inflammatory compounds and when taken in low doses, it could also boost our immune responses, helping fight off infections.
Superfoods For Kids
The daily struggle of getting your children to eat – let alone eat healthy foods – is one that most parents face. It is critical to begin instilling healthy eating habits in your children at a young age. Those habits can stick with them into adulthood and help lay the groundwork for a healthy life. But how do you teach a child the fundamentals of nutrition? Even adults struggle to understand which vitamins and minerals we need more of and which complex chemical ingredients we should avoid.
One easy way is to teach your kids to eat as many different colours as they can. That's because the colours represented in foods are indicators of nutritional value—and different colours mean different vitamins and minerals.
Red fruits and vegetables contain an important antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene-rich foods have been shown to decrease symptoms of asthma and shortness of breath in people when they exercise. Key Foods include:
- Red Bell Pepper
Once inside the body, orange foods are converted into vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that contributes to immune health, improves communication between cells, and helps fight off cell-damaging free radicals. Orange foods can also give you night vision! That's because vitamin A is vital for creating the pigment in the retina responsible for vision in low-light situations. Key foods include:
- Sweet Potato
Yellow foods are close relatives to orange foods, and likewise, they are rich in carotenoids. Studies show it decreases the likelihood for diseases like lung cancer and arthritis and helps decrease inflammation in the joints. Key foods include:
Yellow Bell Pepper
Green foods are also among the most abundant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant tag team that, among other things, promotes healthy vision. Green fruits and vegetables get their colour from chlorophyll, which studies show help play an important part in stimulating the growth of new tissue and hindering the growth of bacteria. Key foods include:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green Peas
Superfoods For Older Adults
As we get older our immune response declines, so it is important to consider every meal as an opportunity to nourish your body and support a healthy immune system. Ageing also brings a declining need for energy from calories intake due to:
- A slower metabolism.
- Digestive issues like constipation.
- Age-related muscle mass loss, a condition called sarcopenia.
- Osteopenia and osteoporosis, two conditions where the bones become brittle and more likely to fracture.
Being able to get all the various nutrients you need to live a healthier life is very important!
Blueberries have high levels of phytochemicals and an antioxidant profile that promotes bone health in addition to brain health, blueberries have positive neurocognitive effects meaning that they may help you stave off any age-related memory decline.
Dark green leafy vegetables assist in removing free radicals from the body. This can lower your risk for many different diseases associated with ageing, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are also high in vitamin K, which helps blood clot and protects bones from osteoporosis.
Leafy greens are also rich in:
- Folate, which can help protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive impairment.
- Magnesium, which is involved in a wide array of metabolic processes throughout the body and helps prevent Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
- Potassium, which can reduce high blood pressure.
Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, which helps promote regular bowel movements and maintain a healthy weight by increasing the feeling of fullness after a meal on relatively few calories.
Nuts and seeds are excellent plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and almond seeds are all good options. However, these foods are high in calories and fat, while they’re good fats, you can still overindulge, so keep consumption levels limited.
Lastly, while not technically a food, drinking plenty of water each day is critical to maintaining health and wellness over the long term!
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