During this health crisis, I just want to touch base on the most basic thing you can do to boost your immune system each day--add antioxidant rich foods.
Our bodies all have different strengths and weaknesses; our immune systems are no exception. Oxidative stress in our bodies have been linked to many diseases and illnesses, and a healthy dose of antioxidants in your daily routine can help reduce these risks. Antioxidants are a proven immune system booster and the term mainly refers to what a range of substances can do versus the name of the actual substance.
Antioxidants we are able to consume through healthy foods and supplements like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, catechins, flavonoids, flavones, lycopene, lutein, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, selenium, manganese, and zinc all play a part in a healthy diet. They are not interchangeable with each other which is why it is so important to vary your dietary intake. Not surprisingly all of these antioxidants are found in plant based foods. Rule of thumb: the more natural color, the more health benefits.
A higher intake of antioxidants all at once has not been proven to benefit the body, but a consistent diet with them in it will.
Foods to Eat
Prevention is key. It is important to give yourself a daily boost of antioxidants, so I have put together a short list of antioxidant rich foods. Keep in mind cooking certain foods can both increase or decrease antioxidant levels depending on the food so it is important to do your research.
Berries, Cherries & Grapes
These delicious and sweet treats contain a healthy amount of vitamin C but also contain polyphenols which aid in a healthier heart and digestion. The darker the grape or cherry the more antioxidants they contain.
Elderberry syrup is also a great source of antioxidants to battle viruses when used in proper dosage.
Most people know citrus is a great source of Vitamin C, but did you know your body doesn't store vitamin C so you need it daily? Pro chef tip: it's very easy to squeeze citrus into any meal or even into your water bottle!
Nuts & Seeds
Both are a rich source of Vitamin E which is so important in the regulation and maintenance of our immune system function. Reach for raw and unsalted almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkins seeds for highest content of nutrients. Both are also high in zinc.
Herbs & Spices
A great way to not only add pure flavor to your meal, but important nutrients containing antioxidants is through great quality spices and fresh herbs--and the fresher the better. Freshly grated turmeric and ginger root in soups add a great dimension of flavor as do fresh herbs.
Bright Fruits and Vegetables
There is a reason nature makes them so vivid, just begging to be eaten! Pomegranates, Apples, Tomatoes, Beets, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Red Bell Peppers, Chili Peppers, Melon, Eggplant...just to name few. Packed with lycopene and beta-carotene for your antioxidant pleasure.
Eat your veggies! Dark green veggies are packed with potent nutrients for optimal health benefits. Broccoli, spinach, kale, leeks, fennel, cabbage...stock up! Cooking them sometimes lowers the antioxidant levels so do your homework on which ones are best eaten raw--broccoli is one!
Beans & lentils are not only a fantastic source of plant protein but contain flavonoids and selenium. They are not only low in cost when purchased dried but very easy to prepare and when adding herbs & spices are quite delicious!
Green tea contain EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which has been proven to enhance immune function along with several other health benefits. The best option is to use fresh loose leaf green tea leaves from a reputable source. Pro chef tip: poach chicken breasts in green tea for an amazing depth of flavor.
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and is greatly beneficial to your health (also a great source of iron). Be sure you consume high quality dark chocolate that is high in cocoa content (70% or higher) and eat in moderation. It is a perfect accompaniment with your cup of green tea!
Foods to Avoid
My advice is to typically avoid the color beige as much as you can. It's pretty simple. All that fried, highly processed, gluten-filled, carb-loaded, cholesterol packed, sugar induced, cream based food is typically that monochromatic nightmare of a nutritionally deprived plate. No amount of exercise can counteract poor nutrition. If you must eat these types of foods, do it VERY minimally.
During this time of social isolation focus on making some healthy changes that you might not have had time to focus on before. Nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. Diet trends and fads come and go but basic nutrition remains the best option for most. Eat in color (minus too much beige), get your body moving with regular exercise, feed your soul, and strengthen your mind for a healthy balance. Keep it simple. Get started.
Oh and also...please wash your hands.
Please note: supplements can interact with some medications, and to be sure to talk to your health care professional before adding any antioxidant supplements to your diet or starting a new diet regimen.