You’ve heard this before: You are what you eat. Oftentimes, this phrase is thrust forward thanks to society’s arguably unhealthy obsession with weight loss. What it’s really most important for is more simple: health.
What you eat has such a profound impact on your body’s health and immunity that doctors even prescribe healthier eating habits, or diets, to patients. It can be a little complicated and confusing, though, especially since the word “diet” has been misconstrued over time, but it doesn’t even mean a diet to lose weight so much as it means what you’re regularly eating. If you’ve ever had a medical professional ask you to tell them about your diet, what they mean is simply what’s on your plate on a day to day basis.
Stressed and tired? Eat more foods rich in folic acid and Vitamin A. Catching colds all the time? Up your intake of fruits and vegetables full of Vitamin C.
Surely, it’s not as simple as feeling sluggish one day, eating a carrot and feeling better the next. It’s paramount to commit to lifestyle changes, where broccoli, salmon and almonds (Vitamin A, Omega 3, amino acids) are go-to foods and ice cream, potato chips and sour candy are still enjoyed, just in moderation.
In the new normal of the pandemic, with all of us feeling very little control around what we can do to protect ourselves, eating with immunity in mind is one of the very simple things you can do for your health. Not only will it make you feel better routinely, it will help you build a healthier immune system. Keep in mind, however, that experts and research have shown that the only ways to protect yourself from coronavirus are to practice social distancing, regular hand washing and mask wearing. Here are foods that can help keep your immune system strong.
Oranges are the holy grail for vitamin C, which is needed to help produce white blood cells that fight infections. Other citrus is chock full of vitamin C, too, like grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, and clementines. While of course they’re all delicious on their own, get creative in the kitchen with citrus. Use lemon juice in a salad dressing, lemon zest in a marinade, grapefruit segments in a salad and tangerines or clementines tossed with yogurt and granola.
Perhaps your least favorite vegetable as a child, broccoli is rich in vitamins A, C and E while also having fiber and antioxidants. If your favorite way to have it is topped with cheese or mixed into a broccoli cheddar soup, go for it. It’s still broccoli! Experts suggest the best way to preserve its nutrients is by steaming it. You can also eat it raw, shaved in a slaw or salad, dipped in your favorite Greek yogurt dip, chopped and mixed in with eggs, or roasted with a squeeze of lemon and shavings of parmesan.
A favorite green leaf vegetable, spinach is packed with folate, vitamin C and beta carotene. Spinach is easy to prepare by simply sauteing with a little bit of salt, pepper and olive oil (also a good-for-you ingredient, it’s heart-healthy). You might be surprised how much a large bunch of spinach shrinks once it’s cooked, so prepare more than you think you need. The veggie is also delicious raw in a salad mixed with dried cranberries and a bit of balsamic vinegar, blended into smoothies with your favorite fruit (strawberries are full of vitamin C), or added to stir-fries.
Salmon is often put on a pedestal in the fish department for health and immunity, but any kind of oily fish will be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines all fit the bill—even salmon and tuna in the tinned form. Before you squirm at the idea of anchovies and sardines, it’s worth trying them! Anchovies add excellent flavor to dressings and sauces. In fact, they’re in caesar dressing! Sardines are much less fishy tasting than you might think and are delicious plain on toast or topped with a bit of salt and lemon zest. Try making tuna and salmon into typical sandwich salads or mixing them with lettuce or radishes for something new.
The foods that are good for your immune system do not stop here. Almost all fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, teas and proteins have incredible benefits so long as you prepare them in a healthy way and incorporate them into your diet regularly. Mix and match and get creative in the kitchen. It will surprise you how good things will taste and how good you’ll feel, too.