Eating for Health: An Immune Supportive Diet
Diet. Nobody wants to hear the word. Mere mention of some of the trendy diets grabbing headlines today will send people running from the room in search of carbohydrates to ease their protein-induced nightmares. But the truth is, diet doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.
Diet really refers to the daily nourishment we put into our bodies. It’s part of the complex equation through which we replenish our bodies and allow them to thrive.
The millions of cells that comprise our bodies are in a constant state of flux—cells grow, divide, perform their function, and then die. Everything we put into our bodies, including food, medicine, and even harmful substances—such as cigarette smoke—contributes to this cellular process in either a positive or negative way. Each day, we make choices that help or harm our bodies. One way to stay healthy is to follow an immune supportive diet, which promotes health at the cellular level.
What Is an Immune Supportive Diet?
The immune system has many different components, all of which are designed to fight disease. Your immune system is your first line of defense against illness. It is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body.
You don’t need a degree in biology to understand all of the nuances of the immune system; you simply need to know that your immune system is working for you—and you want to support it in this job.
An immune supportive diet is the foundation for a healthy immune system; it builds health from the inside out. The premise behind an immune supportive diet is choosing foods that will support your body and provide it with the energy it needs to function optimally—and avoiding foods that will drain your body of precious energy and resources.
A comprehensive review of hundreds of studies indicates that an immune supportive diet would include:
- Adequate, but not excessive calories
- 10 or more servings of vegetables a day
- 4 or more servings of fruit a day
- Essential fatty acids
- High fiber content
- Supplementation with fat soluble vitamins, folic acid, and vitamin D
The immune supportive diet would restrict:
- Red meat
- Refined sugar
- Refined flour
Creating an Immune Supportive Diet
Forget “thin thighs in thirty days,” zero carb, net carb, high protein, and every other gimmick you associate with the word diet. Instead, think about your body from the inside out. An immune supportive diet is more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice based on choosing foods that will help to build health on the inside. Start with these simple guidelines:
- Whole Foods: Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and have a high nutrient content. Generally speaking, whole foods are foods that occur in nature (instead of in a box). Whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants are substances such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene, which keep cells healthy by protecting them from the damaging effects of oxidation. The higher the level of antioxidants in the blood, the better protection from cell damage. Foods rich in antioxidants include carrots, pumpkin, squash, citrus fruits, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that the body needs. They can be found in tuna, salmon, mackerel, avocados, flaxseeds, and flax oil.
- Organic Foods: Organic foods are free of agricultural chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides, which may compromise immune function. Choose organic when possible.