So, what is the best way to go about boosting the strength and vitality of your immune system?
The answer is hydration, fresh air (get outside and fire up that grill), exercise, nutrition, and a balanced diet. I am not a certified nutritionist or medical professional - this is what I know through my own experience as a Chef and a Father.
The immune system is our body's defense against infection and disease, it needs to be well nourished in order to stay strong and be able to continue the good fight. We all know that nourishment is how the body physically gets what it needs to survive and optimizing that supply of nourishment only makes us stronger.
I am writing this during strange times. In fact I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime and, like the rest of the world, have been somewhat blindsided. I’m referring to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. As social isolation and quarantine become part of our every day lives I have, like many others, found myself staying at home and waiting out the storm. The bright side of all this is that my enthusiasm and love of cooking has been fortified.
Sadly, the hospitality industry has taken a massive hit and many related businesses may not be able to financially survive the closures that are either inevitable or enforced. Most of us are now having to cook our meals at home and get somewhat creative with what we prepare. It is encouraging to know that as a nation we do not have to worry about any kind of food shortage at the moment, so we might as well do some cooking.
As we prepare our own meals, we can have more control over what we are putting into our bodies. A balanced diet is key and there are some specific vitamins and minerals that are particularly beneficial to immune support that can be found in common ingredients.
Here are some examples.
Vitamin C – Everyone knows citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C, but it can also be found in the following: spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower, kale, bell peppers (particularly red), tomatoes, and berries.
Zinc – Helpful in fighting infection of the upper respiratory system. Studies have shown that zinc can reduce the longevity of the common cold and recommended daily allowances can easily be met without the aid of supplements by eating the following foods: meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, dairy, eggs, and whole grains.
Selenium – Is an antioxidant that can help relieve inflammation particularly caused by viral infection. It is found in some very common ingredients: mushrooms, meat, legumes (particularly lentils,) and dairy.
Other Antioxidants – Antioxidants help reduce the number of free radicals in the system. Free radicals are essentially damaging molecules in the body that have nowhere to go and are proven to contribute to aging, disease, and infection. There are foods high in antioxidants that can help eliminate and filter these free radicals out of the body: tea, dark chocolate (thank goodness), berries, grapes, artichokes, kale, red cabbage, beets, and spinach
Anti-inflammatory – Foods that can help fight inflammation in the body include: turmeric (have you tried our Hippie Gold Rub yet?), berries, fatty fish like salmon or trout, and broccoli.
Foods that deserve an honorable mention. Both fresh garlic and ginger have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and, in my opinion, offer a delicious boost to most meals.
These ingredients are all common and easy to incorporate into your diet. In these trying times, health is of the utmost importance, so give yourself the best chance you can and take care of yourself.