In recent months, the news has focused on ways to stay healthy to prevent disease. Beyond proper hygiene and “social distancing,” building up your immune system is a protective measure to remain healthy.
According to the National Institute of Health, “the defense system of the human body is made up of entire organs and vessel systems like the lymph vessels, but also of individual cells and proteins. The inner and outer surfaces of the body are the first barriers against germs. These surfaces include the skin and all mucous membranes, which form a protective wall.
Several things support this protective wall:
- The body’s antibacterial substances can disable different pathogens from the environment at an early stage. A specific enzyme found in saliva, the airways, and tear fluid destroys the cell walls of bacteria.
- Many pathogens that are breathed in get stuck to mucus in the bronchi and are then moved out of the airways by hair-like structures called cilia.
- Most pathogens that enter the body together with food are usually stopped by stomach acid.
- Healthy flora, harmless bacteria that reside on the skin and many mucous membranes in the body, also help to protect the body.
The cough and sneeze reflex can also help to remove pathogens.”
Personally, my daily effort to stay healthy and boost my immune system is through food. If I have to distance myself socially for the next few months to avoid a pandemic, I will most likely spend it in my kitchen preparing healthy meals. Below are my pantry staples that help boost the immune system:
Broccoli and spinach: My fridge is rarely without broccoli or spinach. It is easy to cook in a variety of ways (but don’t overcook), rich in vitamin C, full of fiber, and antioxidants.
Citrus fruits: Your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, so you need a daily intake of fruits and vegetables (like red peppers) that contain this immune-boosting vitamin. Luckily, almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.
Green Tea: Both black and green teas contain flavonoids, which is a type of antioxidant. But green tea has high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to enhance the immune system.
Kiwi: This fuzzy green fruit is naturally full of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
Yogurt: Greek yogurt contains “live and active cultures” printed on the label are the best. This type of yogurt is also higher in protein and low in natural sugar (if you purchase plain vs. flavored). The cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.
Almonds: An easy snack that contains vitamin E and healthy fat.
Garlic: I always have garlic on hand to create a savory, flavorful dish. Garlic may help fight infection, lower blood pressure, and slow down the hardening of the arteries.
Turmeric: This yellow spice, which is used in many curries, is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties (helps both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis). Turmeric can also help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.
Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods every day is important to increase our resistance to the germs that can cause illness and disease. Other health-promoting behaviors to boost your immune system is to get enough sleep, stay active with moderate, daily exercise, and manage stress.
Quote: A healthy outside starts from the inside.~ Robert Urich
Recipe: Banana Bread Oats
- Heat ½ cup of almond milk on medium stove top with ½ cup of oatmeal
- Once soft, add half a mashed banana, cinnamon, 2 TBS ground flax seed, dash of maple syrup, and some more milk
- Simmer for a few minutes
- Place in a bowl and top with more cinnamon and the other half of the banana
- Optional toppings: almond butter, walnuts, cacao nibs, or shredded coconut