You're immune system needs to be strong enough to fight off germs and viruses lurking, well, everywhere. Eating nutrient-rich foods is a great way to keep your family healthy. But with tight schedules, many of us eat on the run and sacrifice good nutrition, which can undermine the health boost that a normally nutritious diet offers.
Colds and flu can sneak up on you and your loved ones. More than 200 viruses can cause cold symptoms. That is a lot of bugs to fend off.
Luckily, eating healthy may be just the immune-system booster you need to ward off illness. A healthy immune system is your best defense against pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and carcinogens that can make you ill.
Immune cells are found throughout you body, in your tonsils, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, and bone marrow. By focusing on nutrient-rich foods instead of high-calorie foods like cookies and ice cream, you and your family can ward off illness.
Here are 6 foods that boost Immunity.
1. Fish--For a stronger immune system, nutritionists suggest consuming at least two servings a week of fatty seafood, such as sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish and in other foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds and canola oil are known to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. They increase the activity of white blood cells called macrophages, which engulf troublesome bacteria. Monounsaturated fats in foods such as olive oil and wheat germ also protect our bodies from microorganisms, bacteria and viruses.
2. Protein--Zinc, a mineral abundant in meats like calf's liver, beef and lamb, works with the protein found in meat to help strengthen the immune system. In fact, certain types of immune cells, including white blood cells, cannot function without zinc.
In the winter months, most markets offer a wonderful array of fresh choices, from winter squashes, greens and root vegetables to cranberries. You can also reach for canned and frozen fruits and vegetables any time of the year. Processed just after the harvest, canned and frozen produce may actually have more nutrients than produce that has spent days in transit.
3. Citrus & Veggies--Go ahead and indulge in leafy greens, bell peppers, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, all rich in vitamin C. This vitamin inactivates histamine, the substance responsible for your runny nose and congestion, and helps reduce the inflammation that accompanies colds and viruses.
According to a study at the University of California at Berkeley of 160 healthy adults, those who took 500 milligrams of vitamin C a day for two months had a 24% drop in C-reactive protein, a compound associated with inflammation and chronic disease.
Brightly colored greens and other vegetables also contain large doses of immune-enhancing antioxidants that help fight wintertime illnesses. So load up on strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and sweet potatoes--all a boost for you immune system.
To make vegetables more appealing, add them to soups, stews and sauces. And down a glass of low-sodium tomato or vegetable juice now and then--they are both great sources of vitamin C.
4. Nuts--Instead of chips or cheese doodles for an afternoon snack, reach for a handful of nuts or seeds. Studies show vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, fights respiratory infections, including colds. It boosts the responses of antibodies and certain immune system cells when we're under stress.
Try on quarter cup of sunflower seeds which has almost all the vitamin E you need daily, one quarter cup of almond provides 50% of your needs, Brazil nuts pack a whopping dose of selenium, a mineral that works with vitamin E to boost wintertime defenses.
5. Spices--Both garlic and onions contain compounds that rev up the activity of immune-system cells called natural killer cells and T-helper cells. While onions and garlic fend off colds, they're also helping defend you from cancer and heart disease.
If a cold does catch you and you get stuffy, a bite of garlic will also help clear your nose.
6. Yogurt--In a year-long study at the University of California, adults who ate three-fourths cup of yogurt a day had 25% fewer colds than those who didn't. Researchers found that yogurt cranked up the production of a substance called gamma interferon, which helps squelch virus reproduction, a death knell for your cold.
Dehydration can also lower your defenses. Drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water and other fluids every day. And if you're already sick, double that.
Now you know what to eat, but what foods should you avoid?
Skip sugar and Fat--Animal studies have shown that diets high in both sugar and fat reduce the numbers of natural killer cells. Even as little as two sugary sodas a day can lower the power of your cold-busting immune cells by 40%.
For a healthy immune system, health experts also encourage reaching a healthy weight, taking a multivitamin that provides essential minerals, like zinc and selenium, exercising 30 to 60 minutes most days, and sleeping at least eight hours every night.
If you're like most, you could probably use a change of pace in your diet beyond the regular ol' chicken breast. So, to spice up your diet, and your taste buds, here are 10 of our favorite foods high in protein you can begin mixing into your weekly meal plans.
1. Eggs--Eat the whole egg, not just the white. The yolk is actually the most nutrient-dense portion of the egg, providing a ton of vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fats and it has the benefit of making the egg taste better.
2. Shrimp--Grill them, or saute them in some grass-fed butter or extra virgin olive oil. Mix with veggies and enjoy.
3. Salmon--An awesome fatty fish containing loads of protein and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Greek Yogurt--Greek yogurt packs twice the protein of regular yogurt. Go with the plain variety and sweeten with stevia, a little bit of honey, or better yet, some berries if you'd like.
5. Ground Turkey--Super lean and great for chili.
6. Pork--Known as the other white meat, it's as lean as chicken when you get the right cut. Go for the boneless chops and trim the outer fatty edge.
7. Chicken Sausage--You probably won't notice the difference between chicken sausage and regular sausage, but the former is a more concentrated source of protein.
8. Beans--Black beans, kidney beans, red beans, navy beans, black-eyed peas, lentils and the list goes on, are the least expensive protein source in America--and probably every other part of the world as well--and they are crazy high in fiber with very little impact on blood sugar. Add them to your turkey chili, a salad, or whip up some hummus.
9. Bison--All the taste of beef while being incredibly lean and still packing a mean flavor punch.
10. Grass-Fed Beef--Grass fed beef is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a special type of fat that has been shown to result in fat LOSS. Eat this...tastes great, and it's great for your figure.
Water is good for you, we all know that. We hear no end that we should be drinking more and more water. After all, water is a vital component of our bodies, let's not forget that we are made up of 80% water!! Which is actually a very strange thought when you overthink it. Water basically maintains all of our everyday bodily functions form transporting vital nutrients and oxygen to helping with our day to day digestion of food. So we've successfully established we NEED it.
But fancy making your water even more helpful to your system? Just add honey, yes honey! I know what you're thinking, it's full of sugar... It's so sweet, how can it be healthy??
Fear not friends, honey is actually pretty darn good for you. Drinking a glass of warm honey water everyday can increase your health and even prevent against disease. Yep, you heard it right, this is what will happen if you start drinking honey water everyday...
Your gas will reduce--If you suffer from bloat or feel gassy on the regular, then a mug of warm honey water will help to neutralize the gas in your system. You'll feel half a stone lighter in no time.
You will boost your immune system--Honey owns some pretty impressive immune system boosting properties. Be sure to buy raw, organic honey to gain maximum benefits from the bacteria killing assets! It's full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that will protect you against any nasty bacteria.
You will flush out toxins--Honey and warm water is one of the best combinations to flushing out waste from your system. Say goodbye to toxins and hello to a detox. Adding lemon will also help improve this even further by helping to increase urination.
Your skin will become clearer--Honey is a natural anti-oxidant which means it helps to flush away any waste and thanks to antibacterial properties, it helps to keep your skin clean and clearer than ever. (go to http://www.sheknows.com/beauty-and-style/articles/1017621/beauty-benefits-of-honey) for an overview of why and how to get better skin by using honey.
You will lose weight--So your first thought is probably "but sugar??" Yes, there is sugar in honey, but it is totally different to white sugar, it's natural sugar! These natural sugars will help to satisfy your everyday sweet cravings for naughty treats such as cake, sweets, chocolate and cola. In fact, if you swap your sweetened packed drinks for honey water, you'll be saving up to 64% more calories.
Your sore throat will improve--There's a reason warm honey water is a winter favorite, it can help to soothe a sore throat and warm you up in the colder months. Honey is a natural remedy for respiratory infections and the common cough, so next time you have a pesky winter cold, reach for the honey (raw and organic of course).
Your blood sugar levels will regulate--As we've discussed, whilst honey does contain a fair amount of sugar, it's not the same as white sugar--the combination of fructose and glucose actually helps the body to regulate your blood sugar levels, it's also said to lower cholesterol too. Not bad~~~
You'll be preventing risk of heart disease--The flavonoids and anti-oxidants in honey are also pretty handy at helping to prevent and reduce your risk of heart disease. Research has shown that honey slowed down the oxidation process of bad cholesterol in human blood--which can have a harmful effect on your heart leading to attacks and even a stroke.
*Make sure you let the water cool a bit (so it should be warm, not hot) before adding the honey so that it does not inactivate the natural enzymes in the raw honey*
So, what are you waiting for?? Make yourself a warm/cool glass of honey water~~~~