November 2021 |
Supporting a Healthy Immune System
Throughout the Holidays
by Desiree Lavin, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
It’s a question I hear time and time again, now more than ever during the Covid Pandemic. “How do I eat to not get sick?” “How do I boost my immune system?” While there are definitely foods you can eat to ensure you are supporting your immune system so that it functions at it’s best, there is nothing that will “boost” or enhance the immune system above normal levels. When you eat a well-rounded, varied diet, your immune system will thank you by doing what it’s meant to do.
What Nutrients Matter?
Though food is just one factor that affects how our immune systems function (phew, are they complex!) there are several micronutrients that have been shown to be important for our immune cells. These include; Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Zinc.
Studies suggest that nutrition can affect the gut microbiome, mood, gut barrier function, inflammation, and white blood cell function. These are all important players in the immune systems daily processes. Unfortunately, our diets often contain highly processed foods laden with added sugars, salts and calories. The wonderful togetherness and hustle of the holidays, also means more meals on the go, and less wholesome food options like vegetables, fruits and fatty fish which contain the nutrients essential for supporting a healthy immune system.
The Practical Advice
Most Dietitians will tell you to consume all of the nutrients you need through a well-rounded diet throughout the year. I would agree with that with one caveat. We all don’t always have a well-rounded diet throughout the year (hello, Christmas cookies all month long). In which case, supplementation may be important for meeting your needs. If you are just deciding to start eating a more healthy, balanced diet, it may take awhile to get into the swing of things. These are major behavior changes that can happen slowly over time. None of us are perfect right? That shouldn’t be our goal either. Making the best choices for food that you can in the moment is the goal with a little dose of reality. If you know you are not consuming enough of a certain food, make it a goal to increase it in your diet and use a supplement ( typically Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc) as an added layer of protection. A Registered Dietitian can help you sort through supplementation and dosages and help recommend a nutritious diet that’s right for you.
Brrrrr…. It’s cold outside! Drink Tea! It’s delicious, hydrating and numerous studies have shown it can decrease inflammation thereby aiding the immune system. It contains antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients, and is soothing on these cold days.
Also remember that diet is just one component of maintaining a healthy immune system. Research has shown that stress can effect the immune system, so take the time you need to unwind this season. Practicing yoga, meditation or breath work is a wonderful way to relax.
I love these recipes from Eating Well . However, they are missing some very important fish recipes! A healthy diet should include 2 portions of fish a week (about 5 ounces each) with one of those being oily fish, as in this recipe for Chopped Salad with Salmon.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with a Registered Dietitian, Contact Desiree today!