It's only been in recent years that I've associated eating healthy with being healthy. I thought that if I got sick, I would take medicine.
In 2004, I was diagnosed with hypertension, which runs in my family. My father had a pretty unhealthy diet and was diagnosed with diabetes in his late 50s. He died of a massive heart attack at age 62.
Being told I needed to be on medication for the rest of my life put me on the journey I am on now. I learned the benefits of whole foods on my health. I cleaned up my diet and felt so excited about the results that I became a health coach. I am now happy to say I do not take medication anymore! I also believe that if my father had had a healthier diet, he might still be alive.
Poor nutrition has been linked to less resistance to infections and bacteria, slower healing and increased exposure to disease. A diet low in fiber and high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats exposes us to toxins - many in the form of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides and makes maintaining a healthy immune system challenging.
Adhering to a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and high quality proteins can do wonders for your immunity. However, there are certain foods that pack a bigger punch in helping you fend off and fight infections.
Great Foods for a Healthy Immune System
- Organically grown fruits and vegetables:
These are rich sources of powerful antioxidants, vitamin C and pro-vitamin A carotenoids. In addition, they are also rich in vitamin B6, folic acid, iron and zinc, whose deficiency has been linked to a weaker immune response.
Fruits and veggies also contain an abundant amount of flavonoid phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that can protect the cells of the body, including those of the immune system from the damage caused by too many free radicals.
Contains allicin, a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent. Allicin has been shown to be effective not only against common bacteria like colds and flu but a host of other disease causing microbes.
Eat at least one clove of garlic every day. Crush or mince and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking. This will allow the release of the powerful healing component in allicin. Cooking it too soon stops the process.
- Shiitake Mushrooms
Contains phytonutrients that have been found to power up the immune system and enhance its ability to fight infection and disease. Mushrooms should not be cooked for long. A healthy method is to sautee in broth for 5-7 minutes. For a taste of healthful dishes containing shiitake, try Sunflower Café on Roswell Road.
- Nuts and Seeds
Are rich in many minerals important for immune system support, including Vitamin E, selenium and zinc. Selenium is a component of one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme used in the liver to detoxify a wide range of potentially harmful molecules, reducing the impact on our immune system.
Sprinkle a small handful of raw and unsalted nuts and seeds to enhance salads and cereals.Nut butters with no added salt, sugar or partially hydrogenated oil make nutritious snacks. You can find good selections at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market
Tahini paste made with ground sesame seeds is used in many delicious Mediterranean dishes such as hummus. Try Rumi's Restaurant on Hilderbrand Drive for great tasting hummus on raw veggies!