Tricks and Treats that Support a Strong Immune System



BY BROOKE ORR, MS RD LDN, ACSM-CPT

October brings deep-fried and candied fair treats, pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING, the highest candy sales of the year, and tailgates brimming with decadent foods and alcohol rich beverages. October also marks an increase in cold and flu viruses that continues throughout winter. Some may try to blame the rise in illness on the negative effects of sugar, alcohol, and high-fat food consumption on the immune system, but the truth is more complicated than “eat this not that.” Harvard Health states that “there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.” The missing link doesn’t mean throw healthy habits to the wind. It serves as a caution sign indicating consumers should be wary of immune-boosting claims on items such as supplements and nutrition programs. Aiming for the “perfect” diet to fight illness often elicits stress, which may decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Instead of obsessing over individual nutrients and the elusive “clean” eating concepts, aim to incorporate habits that are nurturing and kind to mind, body, and soul.

Tricks and Treats to that will have your body performing at its best:

  • Get enough sleep. The exact amount of sleep needed is different for everyone, but aiming for at least six hours is a good start. Create a relaxing, screen-free bedtime routine and aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Instead of keeping your phone by the bed as an alarm, try a more natural way to wake: opt for a wake-up call that simulates the rising sun, or even better, a dual-action alarm clock that also acts as a diffuser.
  • Increase variety in your diet. While one nutrient cannot prevent illness, a nutrient-rich diet comprised of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein can provide the building blocks for your body’s optimal performance. Try this fall favorite, Immune Support Chili, packed full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc!

Ingredients:

2 15 oz cans lentils, rinsed & drained

2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed & drained

1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed & drained

2 cups of butternut squash, fresh or frozen cubed

1 cup diced multicolored bell peppers

1 onion diced

½ cup dry rinsed quinoa

28 oz canned tomatoes with juice

*Optional 8 oz grass-fed beef*

Directions:

Sauté onion & garlic in 2 Tbsp oil of choice; add ground beef if using and brown, transfer mixture to crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours, serve warm and top with lime wedges, fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds, and avocado slices.

  • Incorporate joyful movement. This looks different for everyone, but the key objective is to move your body in a way that feels good and releases endorphins that brighten your mood. Exercise does not have to be done all at once to be effective – try incorporating mini-movement breaks into your day. The University of Kentucky provides a free short chair yoga routine (edu/hr/event/loosen-short-chair-yoga-routine).
  • Make soul connections. The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine shared their research which shows that connecting with people can help with a variety of things such as “maintaining a healthy body mass index, controlling blood sugars, improving cancer survival, decreasing cardiovascular mortality, decreasing depressive symptoms, mitigating posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improving overall mental health.”
  • Participate in spirituality. Blue Zones research found that centenarians who attended faith-based services four times per month increased life expectancy by 4-14 years.
  • Identify your core values. Understanding what means the most to you makes decision-making easier and decreases stress. Time is limited, say yes to groups, events, causes, etc. that align with your values to maximize wellbeing. Need help differentiating values from goals? Try this quiz(personalvalu.es/personal-values-test).

 


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