If you have read a few of my previous blog posts, then you have heard about my big sister, Heidi. She’s a Registered Dietician Nutritionist or RDN. I had a conversation with her on the phone yesterday and what she shared is so important and relevant to our health right now that I am passing on this article she wrote on how to protect your immune system and prevent getting the flu by eating certain foods.
My sister Heidi’s wedding, 1984, from left to right, me, Heidi and Allison
The big takeaway from this article is that in order to prevent and fight off any virus, but especially the Coronavirus, we need to 1) Take a lot of Vitamin D, 2) Eat leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale AND orange vegetables like carrots at least three times a week, 3) Stop eating things high in sugar and instead eat an apply daily, and 4) Exercise.
Dancing with my sisters (that’s Allison on the left, Heidi on the right) when that was a thing in the late 80’s
Okay, so full disclosure…My two sisters are absolute ROCK stars when it comes to health. If there was a spectrum, they’d both be on the high side of eating right and exercising (I really should hold it against them but they’re nice, too…ikr?…being their sister can be emotionally traumatizing ;). I consider myself more in the middle of that scale, if I’m being generous. I do walk most days for exercise and I already am on Vitamin D supplements. When I do walk around my neighborhood, I wear shorts whenever possible so that I get natural Vitamin D (bonus!). I have had a week I hope to never repeat, so Andy’s Ice Cream and I had an intimate moment in the car yesterday. To counteract that, I’m heading to the market to buy some deep green lettuce-y things and vegetables that grow under the ground. With ranch. Lots and lots of ranch.
Don’t feel like you have to do EVERYthing on her recommendation list below. Lord knows we’re human and it’s not realistic in the long term if you try to do too much at once. Don’t just give up though! Start with a couple things and then incorporate one more thing each week or so. I am buying carrots and spinach today. I am also going to try to eat an apple every day (fyi, it’s the skin that’s good for you, “Full of antioxidants which reduce inflammation!” Heidi always reminds me, so I won’t be peeling it). Just don’t tell her I’m doing all these things. Being nine years older than me makes her bossy enough already. 😉
Around 1980, from left to right, Heidi, me with a super rad bowl cut, and Allison
Fight the Flu with Your Fork:
How to Strengthen Your Immune System with Food
By Heidi Diller, RDN Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
As the coronavirus situation intensifies, you might be wondering: how can I keep myself healthy? And will taking supplements protect me from getting sick?
First, there’s no magic food or pill that is guaranteed to protect you against coronavirus despite what you’ve read on the internet. And anyone claiming that a pill can cure you will be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But here is the GOOD NEWS! There are ways you can support your immune system that will help you fight off the flu should you get sick. Beyond handwashing, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep here are some key nutrients from whole food and the role they play with immunity.
Super-duper important for immune function, beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps to increase enhance immune function in healthy people. Aim for at least one serving per day from a FOOD (not supplement) high in beta carotene such as: sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, apricots, spinach, kale, broccoli, squash and cantaloupe. Kale is a super star in this category also with sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C increases blood levels of antibodies and helps support white blood cells. Aim for 200 milligrams of vitamin C per day from a combination of foods such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, red and green peppers, broccoli, cooked cabbage and cauliflower.
Fiber from whole foods is a super star in immune support and may boost the health of your digestive tract. Remember, your gut is the only body organ open to the outside world. We swallow bad bacteria all day long, and the good bacteria that lines your gut protects you from the bad guys. The good bacteria, also called your microbiome, produces an anti-inflammatory compound called butyrate. We want lots of butyrate in our body because the it calms down inflammation. Plus, it appears that the people most susceptible to the flu have underlying health conditions that cause inflammation. So, its important to eat foods that lower inflammation now! Remember, all fruits and vegetables fight inflammation, but the produce items with the most fiber (to feed your microbiome) win the award this time. So, don’t just take probiotics and please stop that Keto diet right now. Start eating these superstars: whole grains, along with avocados, bananas, asparagus, artichokes, apples and beans. Yes, an apple or avocado per day would be a really good idea!
Green tea appears to help the immune system by enhancing the activity of T cells, a type of immune cell that acts as “a first-line defense against infection.” Science shows, those who drank six cups of tea per day had up to a 15-fold increase in infection-fighting cells in as little as one week. Try this to prevent the flu!
Most of us don’t get enough of this sunshine vitamin. Deficiency in vitamin D can increase our susceptibility to infection. This is the only supplement I recommend right now. Look for a supplement with D3. Aim for 800 – 2000 IU’s per day.