What foods should you eat to boost immunity?
The immune system has a variety of nutrient requirements, so eating a varied whole food diet including an assortment of different coloured vegetables and fruit, as well as healthy fats and good quality protein is key to it running smoothly. However, there are specific nutrients which studies have shown play an essential role in enhancing immunity, including beta-glucans, phytonutrients, and foods which promote a healthy digestive system such as prebiotics and probiotics.
Beta-glucans found in baker’s yeast and to lesser extent mushrooms, help to heighten the immune systems first line of defence, so eating these often, helps to ensure that the immune system is ready to defend you as soon as it is under attack from an infection.
Phytonutrients in coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, nuts and teas, have been shown in research to have a positive impact on human health. Some of the notable phytonutrients include resveratrol found in grape skin and cocoa, carotenoids found in yellow, orange and red-coloured vegetables, curcumin found in turmeric and ellagic acid – also referred to as a tannin – in walnuts and pomegranates.
Recent research shows that the microbiome in your gut plays a role in a well-functioning immune system, as 70% of immune cells are in the digestive system. Eating foods such as prebiotics including Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, and asparagus helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Nourishing your digestive system with bone broth, stewed apples, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir is also worthwhile.
What foods should you avoid?
Unsurprisingly, processed foods can impair your immune system as they are often nutrient-depleted and enriched with chemicals such as additives, oxidised vegetable oils and MSG. These types of chemicals put stress on your body, so the immune system can not function properly.
Also, foods that contain a high amount of sugar or refined carbohydrates can promote low-grade systemic inflammation in the body which impacts the immune system’s first line of defence. Sugar feeds harmful bacteria and yeasts in the body, such as Candida, which can offset the balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive system. As your body relies on beneficial bacteria to protect it from infection when this is off-balance, you are more venerable to harmful bacteria and viruses.
Highly processed vegetable oils such as sunflower, soybean and canola oil also promote systemic inflammation as they are often oxidised and rancid, and contain a high amount of omega 6 vs, omega 3. The ratio of omega 3 vs omega 6 in your body is a critical factor in immune health. Avoiding these oils and eating foods high in omega 3 such as cold-water fatty fish, flaxseed and chia seed, may help to bring back the balance to support a healthy immune function.
How often should you eat? Should you eat more at a certain time of the day?
There is lots of evidence to support that eating within a shortened eating window benefits immune health. Often referred to as intermittent fasting, which involves eating within a window of between 6 to 12 hours, and then fasting overnight has been shown to have many health-promoting benefits. This type of fasting aids your body to use fat as fuel rather than glucose, which produces ketone bodies in your body. Being in ketosis may improve immune health through regulating gene expression, which helps to build essential proteins that the immune system requires to function correctly.
Eating within a shortened eating window also gives your digestive system time to recover and heal. As your immune system repairs and restores during sleep, it is best to eat earlier in the day, and eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bed, ideally at around 6 pm, so that the digestive process does not disrupt your well-earned rest.
If you’re overweight, how should you safely try and lose weight?
Eating within a shortened eating window is an excellent way to reduce calories and ensures that your blood sugar is better regulated, especially during the daily ‘fast’. The amount of sugar in your blood plays a crucial role in fat metabolism, as it stimulates a hormone called insulin which turns your cells onto fat-storing mode, rather than fat-burning.
To switch the cells back to fat-burning mode, you need to decrease the spikes in your blood sugar, by eating foods with a low glycaemic load. Foods with a low glycaemic load do not spike blood sugar in most people, and as a result, in a slight calorie-restricted state or during exercise, your body will begin to utilise stored fat which ultimately leads to weight loss.
Also, as low-grade systemic inflammation may also be a factor in weight gain, follow an anti-inflammatory diet such as the autoimmune paleo diet, may help your body access and utilise the energy stored in your cells. As weight gain is often a symptom of another imbalance in the body, taking an anti-inflammatory approach, is a safe and health-promoting way to lose weight.
If you would like to start taking steps to improve your health, contact me HERE today to find out how nutritional therapy could be the game changer for your health and well being.
And if you are interested in learning more about how nutritional therapy can improve your health, find out more at the British Nutrition Foundation HERE.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.