Eating for a healthier immune system is easy. Like anything, not knowing how is often the main obstacle. I suggest trying one of these ideas each week and noticing how you feel. You won’t find any extreme advice here. All of these things are common sense and easily doable...
1. Eat More Colorful Veggies.
Eating more colorful veggies is my number one tip for a stronger immune system. Veggies are our main source for the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that we depend on. And eating them together often increases their bio-availability: Did u know that parsley has more vitamin C than an orange? And that iron is absorbed better with vitamin C? Also, I recommend going organic more of the time. Here's a simple suggestion for discovering the value and flavor of organic food: eat time you shop, try a few veggies organic. Myself, I generally will not buy conventional spinach, carrots, or apples...unless they look really good. Because the flavor, vitality and nutrition often isn't there. Once you try organic, you may be shocked. You'll remember what food is supposed to taste like. Also try eating raw veggies more of the time, for their live enzymes and increased life energy.
2. Eat More Good Fats.
Conventional salad dressings are made with soybean oil, an inflammatory oil. Conventional meat is also high in inflammatory fat and little good fat. Our immune system depends on fat to work right, and all our cell membranes are also made of fat. In recent years, fat has gotten a bad rap as a promoter or obesity, but the truth is it's refined carbs that create undesirable weight gain. Fat, good fat, is a totally essential nutrient. So I suggest this: eat more good fat for a while and see how you feel. Coconut oil is wonderful to cook with and even helps burn fat. You can make a tasty chocolate pudding from avocados. Raw nuts are a great snack, and whole fat organic dairy in moderation helps some people feel their best. But a good first step is to omit soybean-based dressings in favor of a home made dressing made from olive oil. When I eat more healthy fat, I find that my skin becomes noticeably softer.
3. Keep Blood Sugar Down.
High blood sugar not only contributes to weight gain, but is also very hard on our skin and brain, and there is a relationship between high blood sugar and a lowered immune response. Foods that spike blood sugar include starchy foods and very sweet foods, like potatoes, bananas, and dried fruit. So eat all those in moderation. For more on this, google, 'glycemic index'.
6. Do Immune Boosting Herbs Often!
Herbs and spices are so easy to use! And they have many health benefits, from enhancing digestion to boosting the immune system and metabolism, and even lowering blood sugar. Herbs and spices, well used, can even help us lose weight. In my opinion, they are one of the most underused medicines we have. Experiment with garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, and green herbs like parsley and oregano.
I suggest two easy ways to do this:
1) When you make any meal, put on water for tea, too (at least in the winter). My favorite teas, personally, are rooibos chai (no caffeine), and licorice-nettle, a sweet, nourishing tea that also benefits the adrenals. I also make my own blend of ginger, mint and licorice that I love. I would also recommend to anyone to add adaptogen herbs to their diet. These include licorice, gingeng, maca and ashwagandha.
2) Cook with lots of herbs and spices. You can try a new one each week.
7. Go With Natural Sweeteners.
This one tip alone can make a big difference. We eat so much sugar without knowing it: dextrose, fructose, maltose, galactose, sucrose, lactose…all the –ose’s are sugar. A great replacement for sugar in home baking is stevia, as is xylitol. Both have very low effects on blood sugar. But even molasses, honey or maple syrup are better options than refined sugar. Making our own healthy sweetened treats at home can be a real investment in our health. But an even better way to decrease sugar in our diet is to crowd it out by eating more sweet veggies: onions (maybe cooked), carrots, yams and beets are all sweet.
9. Do Dessert That's to Live For!
If you're craving chocolate, eat 70% cocoa or more. If you're craving sweet and creamy, do organic yoghurt with berries, or maybe honey. And if you like crunchy, homemade yam fries are good as are nuts. Plus there's always whole grain cereal with whey protein, if you tolerate those well.
10. Replace White Spuds with Yams.
Much more nutritious, and a great substitute if you want to experiment with eating less grains or avoiding gluten. Yams are the go-to higher carb food of those who follow the paleo/primal style of eating.
11. Eat Happy Animals!
Conventional animals never saw the sun, and were often raised on gmo corn and soy. It should be no surprise that their meat is high in inflammatory omega 6 oils and low in good omega 3 oils. Conventional chicken has about 4x the fat of free-range chicken...and it's not the kind of fat you want. In contrast free-range or grass-fed will often be much higher in omega 3's...the fat your body, cells, and immune system require. It IS more expensive, but do it for a week and you'll notice it's much tastier and feels better too. If you’re like me, one chicken breast is 2-3 meals, so it really is affordable, and as more do it, the price will go down.
12. Take Your Vitamin D.
This is one of the few things that everyone agrees on: more vitamin D is good for you, and helps us avoid many health problems in later life. Most recommend taking 2000 to 3000 iu daily, in the form of D3. It's one of the cheaper vitamins, so there really is no excuse. Keep it on your counter in plain sight to remember to take it.
All these steps are really about turning what is a routine thing, eating, into a beautiful, balancing time. Your fridge can become your 'farm-acy'! As we eat more real, high quality food, and make better food choices, not only will our immune systems be supported, but all our bodies' systems.