Eating Your Way to Immunity
March 19th, 2021
As of this last year, one of the most common questions I get asked as a Clinical Nutritionist is what can be done to enhance the immune system to protect against Covid-19, through the foods we eat?
To understand what it takes to make our body’s defenses work for us, we must understand what the immune system does for us. Your immune system is every-where through-out your body, and acts like your own professional army defending your body from threats and invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites; for the purpose of this reading we will call them microbes. What you may be surprised to hear is that all immune cells come from bone marrow and develop into mature cells for specific functions in various parts of the body. In fact your skin is one of the first lines of defense along with your nasal and oral passage against these microbes, and if the microbes make it through this first line of defense then the next line of defense is white blood cells that are found patrolling in your bloodstream, as well as the lymphatic system which is a major production site for making various immune cells. The lymphatic system is like a network of tubes that runs through-out your body, and your white blood cells are stored in little pods commonly known as lymph nodes, these white blood cells are your army - destroying and neutralizing any microbes that have turned criminal which we will call pathogens that are found in the blood stream. However it is important to note that not all microbes turn into criminal pathogens and wreak havoc in the body, only if the immune response is overwhelmed or over worked – as if there is not enough soldiers in the army.
As we age, our overall functioning of or immune system declines, we have tired soldiers who do not have the energy to fight, one of the major reasons being due to the immune cells not getting enough of the right type of fuel for normal functioning. To improve this response we need to feed this amazing pathogen fighting army in your body, with the right fuel so that they will have the ability to perform much better for us and our entire immune system.
While there are various factors that can assist your immune system to function at its best such as reducing stress and increasing relaxation, sufficient sleep, getting enough of the happy vitamin D from the sunshine, doing regular exercise and drinking plenty of water a day, it is important to note one vital part of a healthy functioning immune system is an ideal balance of a healthy diet. Here are just a few foods and how the nutrients they contain can assist in the functioning of a heathy immune system, the last two may surprise you!
- Turmeric/Curcumin: Anti-viral abilities, reduces inflammation and is an amazing source of pathogen fighting antioxidants.
- Ginger: Reduce damage in the body caused by pathogens, via the reduction of inflammation and increase the circulation of antioxidants, in particular can be very useful for sore throats.
- Orange and Lemon: Are both very high in the common cold and flu fighting vitamin C. Vitamin C can reduce the incidence and duration of common cold symptoms, by increasing white blood cells and having anti-microbial effects.
- Honey: Raw, local honey is best due to the contents of antioxidants, anti-bacterial properties, helps to sooth a sore throat and suppress coughs, by calming inflammation.
- Almonds: Very high in Vitamin E, this amazing fat soluble vitamin assists the immune cells ability to neutralize pathogens due to the strong antioxidant properties.
- Cashews: These delicious nuts are high in the mineral Zinc. Zinc is needed for the development and normal functioning of immune cells, as well as exhibiting vast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
To make it more enjoyable to consume these foods, I have developed a healthy treat that contains all of the above foods to exhibit various immune enhancing benefits, see Immunibites recipe below.
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup soaked medjool dates
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp linseeds
3 tbsp coconut oil
6 tbsp coconut cream
Juice of 1 lemon and rind
1 tbsp local honey
2 cups soaked cashews
1/4 cup coconut cream
1 tsp orange rind
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp turmeric/curcumin
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
3 tbsp local honey
For the base layer combine all ingredients into the food processor and process into the sticky crumble. Press the base mixture into a small lined slice tin. Place in the freezer to set.
Next for the ginger layer combine all ingredients into a clean food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Pour this layer over the base, spread evenly, and return to the freezer for an hour or so.
Lastly for the lemon layer, add all ingredients in a pan and warm slightly to mix the ingredients well. Spread evenly as the final layer on your slice. Return to the freezer and allow to set for 2-3 hours. Slice into bite sized pieces and share with friends and family!