Food for Immunity

Not only is Covid, with all its variants, still a part of our daily lives but flu season is now upon us as well. Plus, many of us are coming down with nasty colds and sinus infections for the first time in ages because we're seeing our friends and family in person again!

So, even with careful handwashing and socializing, you're going to be exposed to something. The element that can make all the difference in how your body handles germs and infections is diet. You want to base your meals around foods that will boost your immunity and keep underlying conditions in check.

Avoid foods that cause inflammation.

A lot of underlying conditions and chronic health problems arise thanks to the wear and tear caused by consistent inflammation. Even low levels of inflammation have damaging effects over time. And certain diet choices can contribute to and even cause inflammation within the body.

Foods that cause inflammatory reactions in most people include:

- Processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, salami, and bacon (meats that have been salted and cured). These are high in saturated fats and sodium, which both contribute to inflammation and increase your chances of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

- Foods with processed sweeteners, like sugar and corn syrup. There are the obvious foods in this category, such as sugary cereals, cookies, candy, and soda, but you’ll also find sugar in certain breads, granola bars, and even some salad dressings. When your body consumes a lot of sugar at once, your insulin has a hard time keeping up and starts to store the energy in fat. Over time, eating too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic conditions.

- Foods with refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates, which you’ll find in white bread, French fries, and white rice among other things, act in ways very similar to sweeteners because they break down into simple sugars quickly.

- Fried foods. The Omega-6 fatty acids in oils used for frying, such as corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil, are essential to your health, but they must exist in a healthy balance alongside omega-3 fatty acids. If there are too many omega-6s, they create a pro-inflammatory response.

- Trans fats. These are oils with hydrogen added to them (known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). Hydrogen changes the texture and shelf life of the oil. You’ll find these kinds of oils in peanut butters, shortening (which winds up in many baked goods), and certain restaurant foods.

With the exception of trans fat, all of the foods on this list can be included in your diet, but only in small quantities, not on a daily basis. So, instead these, an immune boosting diet will focus on anti-inflammatory foods.

What about gluten?

There has been a lot of focus in popular culture on the inflammatory effects of gluten, but the truth is, for many of us, gluten is a valuable source of protein. If you don’t have celiac disease or a physical sensitivity to gluten, it shouldn’t be an issue for your digestive system.

In fact, which it is worth avoiding foods high in simple carbohydrates, like white bread, whole grains can actually be a key part of a healthy diet.

Fight inflammation with food.

The good news is there are plenty of foods that help to decrease inflammation or keep it in check. These foods include turmeric, garlic, fatty fishes (like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines), ginger, dark leafy greens, green tea, whole grains, nuts, soy, peppers, beets, onions, olive oil, tart cherries, berries, and cinnamon.

All of these foods can help your body lower and control inflammation. You don’t need to eliminate all inflammation from your body at all times. Inflammation serves an important function. In specific instances, you need it for healing. However, you don’t want excessive inflammation to affect your body continuously over time.

Many of these anti-inflammatory foods are also superfoods that include additional nutrients, like vitamins and phytochemicals that boost the immune systems and fight free radicals, dietary fiber that improves digestive health, healthy fats that lower bad fats and cholesterol, and amino acids that build essential proteins.

An immune-boosting diet can be scrumptious as well as healthy.

A lot of people worry that a healthy diet will be unexciting or feel limiting, but the truth is, there are lots of options for what you can eat to boost your immunity and improve your overall health. You can find out more about making your diet both nutritious and delicious in the book Anti-Covid Diet with Superfoods, by Vladas Snieckus. The book will spell out how you can look out for your health and keep yourself out of the doctor’s office by eating right.

For powders, bars, granolas, and pastas rich in superfood ingredients, check out the options at Natura.Punkt.