The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “immunity” as “a condition of being able to resist a particular disease, especially through preventing the development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products.” Essentially, immunity is the ability of the body to fight infection. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that have changed people’s lifestyles, it’s more important than ever to have a robust immune system.
Let’s examine different things we can do to increase our immunity with a particular focus on nutrition.
Tips for Increasing Immunity
According to Ikon Health’s “The Ultimate Guide to Immune Health,” there are several things that we can do to support our immune systems to stay healthy:
- Get enough sleep. This usually equates to about eight hours of beneficial sleep each night.
- Reduce your stress levels. Numerous health issues can be caused by high stress levels, including harm to your immune system.
- Exercise regularly. Resistance training, in particular, positively impacts your immune health.
A large part of the equation for a more efficient immune system is nutrition. Having better, more nutrition-based eating habits requires some of us to develop a better relationship with food. Learning to cook at home instead of picking up fast food and having fresh fruit instead of ice cream for dessert can go a long way to making us healthier.
Farm Fresh Produce and Other Foods That Boost Immunity
To understand the immune system better, scientists have been studying the microbiome, a collection of trillions of microbes that primarily live in our intestines. The research shows that these microbes play a vital role in the function of the immune system and that our diets play a crucial role in what type of microbes inhabit the microbiome. We should have both prebiotics (fibers that feed beneficial microbes) and probiotics (foods that contain healthy bacteria) in our diet to maintain immune health.
Prebiotic foods rely on having a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans in your diet, but specific foods do have an abundance of prebiotics:
Probiotic foods include the following:
- Yogurt with live bacterial cultures
- Fermented vegetables
- Kombucha tea
But these are not the only foods that boost immunity. The antioxidant, Vitamin C, is believed to increase the production of the body’s white blood cells, which are essential to fighting infections. There are several foods high in vitamin C:
- Citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes
- Red Bell Peppers
Other antioxidants are essential to immune health, including vitamin E, beta-carotene, and flavonoids found in foods like:
- Many nuts including almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts
- Sweet potatoes
And the list goes on. Suffice it to say many fruits and vegetables can help boost the immune system, and having a balanced diet that includes a variety is the best way to go.
By eating this way, you are not only eating for your immune health, but you are also practicing self-care. Many of the foods listed here will also assist with your mental health and your overall physical health. It is essential to “Eat the rainbow.” Different colored fruits and vegetables offer different nutrients, so eating a diversity of colored foods will give you a full range of vitamins and minerals that will not only help your immunities but your health overall.
Farm Fresh Versus Store Bought
Now that we’ve established the importance of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, let’s discuss the sources of these vegetables. Many people are hesitant to purchase farm-fresh produce due to the higher cost, but farm-fresh can be so much better for you and the environment.
Take kale, for example. The price difference between purchasing it at a farmer’s market versus getting it at the store is about 20 cents per ounce, but you get a lot for that 20 cents. Farmer’s market kale is harvested when it is ripe and contains the most nutrients, while store kale is usually picked early so it will not spoil before it gets to the store. Store kale also has a much larger carbon footprint, possibly coming from over 1,500 miles away, and the farmer sees very little of the money you pay for it. When you purchase kale from a farmer’s market, however, it usually comes from less than 75 miles away, and the money goes directly to the farmer.
The best way to get farm-fresh fruits and veggies is straight from your own garden. Many commercial produce growers develop varieties that will grow faster and produce higher yields, which often detracts from the food’s nutritional value. By growing your own veggies, you can produce varieties that you will never find in the store, such as heirlooms, which are passed down from generation to generation. You can also plant varieties that will provide optimum taste and nutrients. When deciding which varieties to plant, make sure you are familiar with your planting zone. Some varieties may grow better in hotter, more humid zones while others prefer cooler climates. Figure out what will grow best in your area.
To keep your immune system in tip-top shape, you can’t go wrong with prebiotics and probiotics in addition to making sure your diet has plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants. This means having a tasty variety of fruits and veggies on your dinner table. And for the most nutrient-packed produce you can have, purchase farm-fresh vegetables or grow your own. Your body will love you for it.
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.