Boosting Your Immune System with Food
As the airplanes arrive with x-pats and tourists, unfortunately, so do their viruses. It’s important to boost our immune systems. One easy way to do this is with food and supplements which will help you to avoid falling victim to colds and flu this season. Washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with sick people helps tremendously. How can two people can have the same exposure and one gets sick and the other doesn’t? The difference is quite often their immune system.
What IS our Immune System??
It is a network in our body of cells, tissues and organs that work together to keep us healthy by fighting off harmful parasites, viruses, and fungus. Our immune system acts like a barrier between our body and the bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. When this system is compromised by diet, environmental and lifestyle, illness occurs.
Our amazing defense systems are two main parts: The Mucus Membranes which use white blood cells to fight infections before they get inside us: (nose, mouth and eyes), and our T and B cells that work together to create antibodies that fight off invaders and destroy infected cells. Our bone marrow and spleen are also key as they make white blood cells to fight infection, with our lymphatic system transporting lymph (which contains white blood cells) throughout our bodies. What an amazing team that all works together unconsciously to keep us alive!
FOOD is one of the easiest tools to boost and create a strong immune system. When it comes to phytochemicals (the bioactive chemical compounds in plants) studies have shown that the more fruits and veggies you eat the better off you are. Our body requires specific nutrients for optimal immunity. Immune boosting vitamins and minerals are folate, zinc, iron, beta-carotene, B6, B12, C, D and E. Vitamins can be costly, however, the best boosters are found in the produce isle!
Kiwi: Great source of Vitamin C, folate, more potassium than a banana, and antioxidants alpha-Tocopherol and lutein. Wash well and include the peel for high fiber and is fabulous for your microbiome.
Garlic: Medicinally used for centuries and enhancing the immune system, garlic contains Alliin. When you crush whole garlic, it activates alliin which turns into the active compound allicin. Let it sit for 10 minutes to activate. Garlic also offers additional sulfur-containing compounds with healing properties.
Onions: Containing two major compounds: antioxidant flavonoids anthocyanin and quercetin, and alliin! Red and yellow onions are higher in quercetin, whish is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. The highest concentration is found in the outer rings. Cooked or raw; perfecto!
Ginger: A medicinal powerhouse; anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial all protect against infectious disease. The compound Gingerol is most responsible for its anti-cancer properties, as well as the curcuminoids that are also found in Turmeric. Keep a root in the freezer. Grate in smoothies or stir-fry or add to your tea.
Probiotics (good bacteria in your gut), Prebiotics (feed the probiotics) and fermented foods play a huge role on almost every important function in our bodies and is great for digestion and upper respiratory infections. Super easy in supplement form! Also found in kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kefir and here in Mexico, Tuba!
Prebiotics found in jicama, chicory root, garlic, onions, leeks, leafy greens, bananas and the peel of kiwi.
Nutritional Yeast contains beta glucans that have power infection prevention and immune boosting properties by enhancing natural killer cell activity. It has a cheesy taste!
Berries: SUPERFOOD! High in antioxidants, VC, Ellagic acid (prevents tumor growth) So much good in berries! Eat Them!
Citrus Fruits are rich in antioxidants. Lucky for us here in Mexico, we have an abundant of fruit stands that make fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice! Limes are abundant and the ‘Little Cuties’ are in season! Smelling citrus also helps with reducing stress.
Other foods: Mushrooms, Apples (high fiber), sunflower seeds, red peppers (tons of C, E, beta-carotene) Vitamin D sunshine here in Mexico (an article unto itself!), and zinc are a few more suggestions to aid in health and wellbeing when it comes to your immune system. Preventive medicine is located right in your kitchen. Vegetables also contain a lot of protein. (Where do you think animals get their protein from?) Shop and support your local Mexican mercado to find all the fresh vegetables you need to stay healthy. How easy is that? INJOY!