Fighting Illness Through Nutrition

Fighting Illness Through Nutrition

March 12, 2024

Most people are familiar with at least one home remedy to combat common illnesses like the cold and flu. The kitchen pantry is often at the center of these remedies, and while your mother or grandmother might swear by her cabinet of cure-alls, is there really any scientific evidence to support the claim that foods can ward off disease?

The truth is, eating “an apple a day” won’t necessarily keep the doctor away. However, there are healthy dietary habits and choices you can make to boost the strength of your immune system, thus improving its response to viruses and other infections. Read on to learn how proper nutrition can improve your body’s natural defenses against getting sick.

Feeling better naturally

What’s most important to remember is that, whether you’re feeling sick or not, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to keep your immune system functioning optimally. This means following the USDA dietary guidelines, which recommend eating a variety of vegetables—including dark greens, beans, peas, and starches, along with whole fruits and whole grains. Nutrient-dense foods like these provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to sustain its natural processes, which in turn helps promote strong immunity.

In addition to consuming nutrient-dense foods, avoiding foods with added sugars and salt, as well as foods high in saturated fat, is equally important. Also, make sure you’re not being fooled by the label—food products labeled low-fat or sugar-free are not always as healthy as they appear. It’s best to stick to whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and the like, and avoid prepackaged items whenever possible. A good rule of thumb when shopping for groceries? Try to stick to the perimeter of the store, which is where whole foods are typically stocked.

Disease-fighting foods

There are vitamins and minerals traditionally promoted as cold-and-flu fighters, vitamin C being number one among them. However, vitamin C isn’t the only immunity-boosting compound to consider. Below is a list of foods high in vitamins and minerals (including those high in vitamin C) that your body needs to fend off disease.

Bell peppers

You might be surprised to know that, among all vegetables, bell peppers have the highest concentration of vitamin C—a much higher concentration than that found in some citrus fruits. Bell peppers are also full of beta carotene, which promotes skin and eye health. To maintain the most vitamins and minerals, try not to overcook bell peppers—enjoy them raw, steamed, or lightly sautéed.

Ginger

You may already be familiar with ginger as a natural remedy for stomachaches and nausea, but its anti-inflammatory properties can also help combat a host of other illnesses, including a sore throat. If you feel an upset stomach or a scratchy throat coming on, boil fresh ginger in warm water with other herbs, and enjoy it as a tea.

Dark greens

Dark greens like spinach and kale are another vitamin-C-packed veggie that aids in immune support. They are also full of fiber to help promote a healthy gut—where 70 percent of your immune system is housed. The longer greens are cooked, the fewer vitamins and minerals they maintain, so they are best enjoyed raw in a salad or mixed into a smoothie.

Green tea

Tea is one of the most commonly recommended beverages to drink after you’ve already come down with something, but it can be just as beneficial to enjoy regularly for its immune-boosting power. Green tea is full of an amino acid called L-theanine, which is proven to ward off germs. Try adding a little honey and lemon to your tea to improve the taste and increase the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Water

It sounds obvious, but proper hydration is essential for nearly every function in your body. If you aren’t drinking enough water, you won’t be able to sufficiently absorb nutrients from any of the foods mentioned above, so staying hydrated is critical. The amount of water you need daily depends on a few factors, but eight to ten glasses should suffice for most adults.

A quick boost

Wellness shots have gained popularity in recent years for their promise to give a quick and effective jolt to your immune system. However, they can be expensive, and, since they are premade, you might be taking in unnecessary sugars without even realizing it. Here are three homemade health shot ideas to maximize the immunity-boosting properties in some of the foods mentioned above.

*After washing and peeling the fruits, vegetables, and ginger, place all ingredients into a juicer, and enjoy!

Ginger Shot

  • 1 apple
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2 in. piece of ginger root (or 1 tbsp. ground ginger)
  • 1 tbsp. ground turmeric

Citrus Shot

  • 1 orange
  • 2 in. piece of ginger root (or 1 tbsp. ground ginger)
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil

Greens Shot

  • 1 lime
  • Handful of dark greens (spinach or kale)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Handful of mint
  • 1 kiwi

 

This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.

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