The kids are back at school, and with that come the sneezes and sniffles. Our immune system is constantly interacting with our environment in order to protect us, and so it is very important to keep it balanced. The key is to build the immune system, not just boost it!
It is important to ensure that you and your kids are getting enough of the “good” stuff in your diets to support the immune system!
- Essential Fatty Acids: EFAs are essential to our bodies as we cannot make them ourselves. Foods with these essential fatty acids are fish (salmon, tuna), raw nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds), and oils (like flaxseed oil, hemp oil). These help strengthen and enhance the immune system, they support our hair, skin and nails, and they help with inflammation in the body. They are necessary to build the
- Sugar: Sugar weakens the immune system by “freezing” it. The important thing to remember about sugar is that it is HIDDEN in many of the packaged foods we eat. Take a look at the ingredients listing on the next package of bread or crackers you buy and see how many times sugar is listed (sucrose, malt, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar, glucose, molasses, honey, and fructose are just some of the names sugar is listed as). Holistic nutrition is about being aware of whats in your food! If you have the time, make your own cookies and muffins as you can control how much sugar goes in.
- Protein: Protein is necessary for the immune system as it is used to form antibodies, a key component of our immunity. Ensure family members are getting adequate amounts of high quality protein, like organic free range eggs, chicken, bison and beef, as well as wild fish. There are many vegetarian options of protein available as well, so try having grains and beans at a meal (combine beans and quinoa in a soup, or have a black bean wrap).
- Colour: All of those delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, like vitamin C, and minerals that are necessary for an optimally functioning immune system. Cut up different fruits and vegetables for breakfast, send them as snacks to school, and provide more at dinner. Variety is key; try a new vegetable the next time you are at the grocery store, and make it a challenge in your household of who can get the most colour on their plate!
- Vitamin A: yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as leafy greens: carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, asparagus, lettuce, kale, spinach
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines, as well as bell peppers and Brussels sprouts
- B Vitamins will also help support the immune system: whole grains (whole grain breads, pastas, wraps, and the grains themselves)
- Good Bacteria: make sure the good bacteria can flourish by having some organic plain yogurt and ensuring that the whole family is getting enough fiber. Most North Americans are not getting enough fiber in their diet, and so choose whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils), fruits, and vegetables.
- Exercise: Get out for a walk, a bike ride (while we still have some sun and good weather!) or just go to the park. Get moving!
Carrie Dancey, RHN