EATING FOR IMPROVED IMMUNITY
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for us all.
We have all felt the effects of this worldwide pandemic as it brings out anxiety and fears we have never faced.
When will it be over?
What will things look like in 6 months? 6 weeks? 6 days?
It is overwhelming, and can very easily lead to feelings of helplessness.
But, there are still certain things we CAN control (outside of washing our hands and social distancing) that can help us strengthen our body’s ability to successfully avoid and overcome illness, including this novel coronavirus.
- Choosing to exercise to maintain and improve our cardio-respiratory fitness is proving to be extremely important with this virus in particular due to the way it appears to affect the lungs and oxygen exchange in your body.
- Getting adequate sleep (at least 7 hours for most adults) and assuring that the quality of that sleep is high (meaning you sleep through the night deeply, without interruption) is also critical to support the immune system.
- Lastly (but definitely not least), every time you build your plate you have the opportunity to give your body the building blocks it requires to maintain your health, and also have the reserves it needs in case you do contract an illness.
We are all aware of the common recommendations to increase Vitamin C when we are ill or to help support our immune system… But, what about vitamin D? Vitamin B? Iron? Have you been focusing on those too??
If not, you are missing out, especially as related to what we know about COVID-19 (so far).
- Vitamin D: When it comes to immune health, I’d put my focus on vitamin D over C any day! Vitamin D is critical for helping your body initiate an immune response, and is a major player in your ability to maintain it’s defenses against respiratory viruses like COVID-19. The problem is that about 40% of the American population is vitamin D deficient1. Not good.
- Vitamin B-6: It has been discussed that some of the respiratory compromise seen in more severely affected patients is related to a limited ability to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin B-6 helps the body make new red blood cells, which are the cells that carry oxygen to tissues. So, when you combine cardio-respiratory exercise with B-6, your body has all the tools it needs to be as robust as possible.
- Iron: In hopes of not going too deep into the weeds of the immune system, suffice it to say that iron is like fertilizer for your immune cells; it helps them mature and get stronger so that if you are faced with a virus, they can attack quickly and effectively. Plus, it is well documented that iron deficiency makes your more susceptible to infection.
So, where do we find these magic nutrients??
- Vitamin D: You’ll hit your recommended daily amount by consuming just 3 ounces of sockeye salmon. You can also find vitamin D in egg yolks, fortified milks, and from the sun! 10-15 minutes of skin exposure (arms, legs, abdomen and back need to be exposed) is great for those who aren’t sun-sensitive to make the vitamin D they need.
- Vitamin B-6: Cheese lovers rejoice! Ricotta cheese is a solid choice for B-6 (due to the high amount of whey that still remains in the finished product). For those who are dairy or lactose-sensitive, grab some salmon, tuna, eggs or beef to hit your recommended daily amount. And, if you prefer to be plant-based, you can get a good dose of B-6 from sweet potatoes, chickpeas, spinach and carrots!
- Iron: The heaviest hitters are going to be eggs, liver and beef when it comes to iron… As are oysters, mussels and clams, so if you are concerned with cholesterol, take a visit to the raw bar! Plant-based sources of iron include chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cooked spinach (the cooking increases your body’s ability to absorb the iron).
As you may have noticed, there are a few powerhouse foods that come up repeatedly…
- Salmon: Vitamin D, vitamin B-6 and small amounts of iron
- Eggs: Vitamin D, vitamin B-6 and iron
- Spinach: Vitamin B-6 and iron
- Chickpeas: Vitamin B-6 and iron
These are great foods to focus your meals around to boost your immunity every time you eat. Maybe plan for a lunch salad with a base of spinach, along with hardboiled eggs and chickpeas? Then, for dinner, go for a nice salmon filet and a side of cooked spinach? Sounds good to me!
If you are ready to learn more about how to use food to not just support your immunity, but also how you can use it strategically to influence your metabolism to gain muscle, burn fat and improve your overall performance, I am ready to partner with you!
My goal is to help you eat in a way that gives you the results you want, without making it harder!
Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES, PN1