By Katherine Krivanek
It’s known that 60-70% of our immune system is found within the gut; therefore, eating well and fuelling our body with the nutrients it needs can help build strong cells and maintain a healthy immune system.
Here are key components to supporting the immune system through diet.
A Good Balance of Nutrients
Food we consume is made up of larger macronutrients and smaller micronutrients. Macronutrients include proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates and micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. A good balance of macronutrients is important in every meal.
Healthy fats help protect our cells, organs and provide flavour and satiation. Protein is necessary for repairing and building up our cells, bones and muscles. Complex and slow digesting carbohydrates are necessary for energy and fibre for optimal digestion. If consuming animal products opt for grass fed meats, pasture raised chickens, nest laid eggs and wild caught fish.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes – organic as much as possible – helps intake of vitamins and minerals that are necessary to keep our cells and immune system strong.
Antioxidants protect our cells from damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules and are the result of pollution (both environmental and chemical in our household products) oxidative stress caused by the natural metabolic process of using oxygen and breaking down food, alcohol, poor diet high in processed and fried foods and excessive sugar.
Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, E, and minerals selenium and zinc.
Here’s where they can be found:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, bell peppers and dark leafy green vegetables
- Vitamin A: eggs, orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash
- Vitamin E: nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado
- Selenium: oats, whole grains, chicken, tuna
- Zinc: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, tofu, lentils, spinach
Inflammation is caused by the body’s reaction to what it perceives as foreign. Natural inflammatory reactions are necessary, such as when we fight off infection or injury. However, prolonged states of inflammation or chronic inflammation from poor diet, can cause damage which leads to disease.
Limit or exclude these common inflammatory foods from your diet:
- Processed meats
- Trans fats and vegetable oil
- Processed carbohydrates
Get plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods in your diet:
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish
Lastly, its important to stay hydrated! Our bodies need to keep hydrated for optimal digestion, organ, muscle and brain function.
Optimal intake is at least 2L (8 cups) of water a day. If you find it hard to remember try using a measured water bottle or set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink up throughout the day!
Don’t like the taste of water? Herbal teas or adding sliced fruit or cucumber to your water can add a bit of taste while keeping you hydrated.
Putting it all together
Here is a sample of a full day of eating including all these nutrients to support your immune system!
- A glass of warm or room temperature filtered water with fresh squeezed lemon juice to detoxify and kickstart digestion.
- Eggs, cooked to liking
- Half an avocado and sliced tomato
- Sprouted grain toast
- Vegan option: sub tofu scrambled with onion and bell pepper
- Leafy greens
- Three vegetables of choice such cucumber, tomato, bell pepper
- Grilled chicken breast
- Pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts for texture
- Dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Vegan option: sub toasted tempeh or chickpeas
- Grilled salmon with garlic and ginger sauce
- Roasted sweet potato
- Steamed broccoli
- Vegan option: sub black bean and mushroom balls
Snacks in between meals:
- Nuts and seeds and dark chocolate chips trail mix
- Bowl of fruit
- Cut vegetables and hummus
- Guacamole or salsa with healthy corn chip
- Roasted and seasoned chickpeas
- Air popped popcorn
- Protein snack balls
Stay happy and healthy everyone!
Katherine Krivanek R.H.N., CPT, is a registered holistic nutritionist from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and a certified personal trainer from the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. She is passionate about helping her clients achieve their health and wellness goals using a holistic approach to whole-body wellness.
Her areas of focus are, but not limited to: optimizing everyday nutrition, weight loss and sports performance, hormonal balancing, and digestive healing for clients of all ages. Katherine tries to help clients of all ages and activity levels to decrease their pain and return to optimal functioning by utilizing patient education, exercise, and hands-on therapy.