Keeping your immune system strong is more important this winter than ever before.
How do you do that?
By having a healthy digestive tract! Did you know that your digestive tract is about 60% of your immune system?
Here are 10 things you can do to help your body’s immune system get and stay healthy:
- Eat foods high in choline, such as eggs. Choline is an essential nutrient for our body and plays a role in keeping the lining of the digestive tract healthy. High quality protein foods such as eggs, lean meat, and fish are good sources of choline. And don’t be afraid to eat the yolk – that’s where the choline is!
- Eat yogurt several days a week. Yogurt contains good bacteria that our digestive tract needs for a healthy immune system. I get a lot of questions about which yogurt to choose. My suggestion is to choose the one you like. If you want more protein choose a Greek yogurt. It does not have to be fat free or sugar free.
- Eat fresh fruit with vitamin C every day. Vitamin C can help decrease the length of time and severity of symptoms with upper respiratory viral infections and support the cells that fight off infection. Vitamin C also provides antioxidant activity to support healing at sites of inflammation. Fruits high in vitamin C that tend to be more available in winter include citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, and pineapple.
- Add more veggies to your meals. Many vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin C, such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and other greens. The fiber in vegetables also keep your digestive tract healthy by serving as fuel for the good bacteria and help remove harmful toxins.
- Pop some popcorn! Popcorn is a whole grain food and great source of fiber. One serving of popcorn is 3 cups popped and has about 15 grams carbohydrate and 3.5 grams fiber. The challenge to keeping it healthy is to pop in oil, avoid the butter, and most importantly portion control!
- Add mushrooms to your meal for zinc. Zinc is one of the minerals in food that has received the most attention for its ability to support immune function. Getting enough but not too much zinc is important. This is one reason to get most of your nutrients from food and not to rely on supplements. Food contains a balanced variety of the micronutrients whereas supplementation with individual nutrients can lead to too much of some and not enough of others.
- Eat fish at least once a week. Salmon is one of the healthiest fish because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation and support healthy immune system. Tuna, herring, cod, and other fish are all healthy lean protein options as well.
- Don’t forget to drink healthy too! Stick to mainly water. Tea can be healthy for immune system and fighting disease. Coffee has been shown to be beneficial for diabetes. Just don’t overdo the caffeine and try to skip the added sugar. Keep alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and will not strengthen your immune system.
- Keep your vitamin D at a healthy level. Vitamin D is involved in many processes in our body and plays a role in immune function. Low levels may be connected to developing diabetes. There has been a lot of controversy about what a healthy level of vitamin D is but if you have diabetes or prediabetes, you should ask your doctor if your vitamin D should be checked. Vitamin D is one nutrient you can’t get enough of from food so if yours is low your doctor can recommend an appropriate supplement dose. Since our body makes Vitamin D from getting sunlight, during winter there is a higher risk of low vitamin D depending on where you live, or if you don’t get out in the sun at all.
- Exercise is the best medicine for reversing diabetes. Exercise may also help keep your immune system strong – if you don’t overdo it. Just try to do something you enjoy – walk, try a new winter activity – or clear off that treadmill – or just turn some music on and dance! Don’t let winter keep you from moving.
Now for the challenge. Try to plan out your meals for the coming week and make sure you have immune boosting foods every day!