Updated: May 20, 2020
We are going through times of uncertainty and fear in relation to global and personal health. One of the most empowering things you can do at times when so much feels out of your control is to manage your health by taking charge of your diet.
Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that the body is better able to fight off viruses and germs.
Here are my top tips to keep you healthy:
1. EAT REAL FOODS
Your body needs real, unprocessed food to stay healthy, so focus on eating natural, wholesome, unrefined food as much as you can and cut out (or at least cut back on) sugar.
That means focussing on eating meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian sources of protein like tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, plus a broad range of fruit and vegetables. These types of food will provide you with a good range of all the different vitamins and minerals that are going to be of benefit for your general health and immunity: including the B vitamins, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, chromium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, C, and D.
Follow the 80/20 rule ( this means eating healthily 80% of the time). Think fresh apples rather than apple juice, or wholegrain bread instead of white bread.
2. ENJOY ‘HAPPY TUMMY’ FOODS
Did you know that up to 80% of your immunity to germs and disease is in your digestive system? The gut is the body's first line of defence to keep us healthy. If your gut health is impaired or simply, out of balance - you are more prone to develop health issues. Even your mouth bacteria relate to your gut flora. This is because your oral microbiome and teeth are the beginning of the digestive system, which means your oral microbiome can tell you about your gut microbiome.
A major 2019 study in the Journal of Oral Microbiology discovered that bacterial populations from the mouth make their way to the gut microbiota. This can alter immune responses and potentially lead to systemic diseases. Getting the right balance between beneficial or ‘good’ gut bacteria and the ‘bad’ or potentially pathogenic bacteria is key.
How to do this:
The gut environment takes a beating year after year, owing to poor diets, too much sugar, stress, antibiotics and other factors. Even if you have no obvious tummy troubles, digestive health is vital, so it’s worth the extra effort to take care of it. Add probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet, as these re-populate the gut with good bacteria and feed them well enough to crowd out bad bacteria.
Here are some gut-friendly choices to get you started:
- Organic, probiotic, natural yoghurt – sometimes called ‘live’ yoghurt or kefir like Chuckling Goat.
- Always buy full-fat yoghurt, as the 0% or no-fat options have increased levels of milk sugars – and fat isn’t the enemy, either in life or in weight loss.
- Miso soup or miso bouillon paste (add these to soups and stews).
- Oats (soak first, as you would to make overnight oats, in order to release the goodness).
- Onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Green Bananas.
3. SERVE CHICKEN SOUP
Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell? If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. When the neutrophils move slowly, there’s a greater chance of them becoming more concentrated in the areas of your body that need the most healing. Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections.
4. COOK WITH HERBS & SPICES
Adding flavour to food is a smart way to include delicious immune boosters on your plate.
Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness. To make the most of allicin, crush, chop or grate the garlic cloves and allow them to sit for a few minutes. This releases more allicin. Once formed, it is fairly resistant to heat.