The weather is changing, days are getting shorter, and you might start feeling a cold coming on!
The winter months often mean more cases of the cold and flu. Thankfully, following a healthy diet and lifestyle can help strengthen your immune system and help to combat foreign invaders.
Did you know that 70–80% of the body’s immune cells are found in your gut? Read that again!
At least 70% of your immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract. The gut is home to trillions of tiny living microbes that influence immunity, mood, anxiety, cognition, and even pain. The gut microbiome can change dramatically due to stress or poor diet. Therefore, it is super important to promote the best environment to help your microbes thrive.
Here are 5 helpful ways you can strengthen your immune system and help prevent getting sick this winter!
1. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Fiber is like food for your microbes. The greater the variety of fiber you consume, the greater variety of microbes you have. Fiber can also help to lower cholesterol, keep blood sugar levels stable, and keep you regular!
Women should aim for at least 25g of fiber and men should aim for at least 38g of fiber daily.
2. Eat Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a diverse gut microbiome and decrease inflammation. Probiotics can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt, and in fermented foods like kimchi.
3. Fruits & Vegetables: Eat the Rainbow
The color of each fruit and vegetable is caused by different phytonutrients,natural chemicals that help to fight pathogens. Eating a variety of colors from fruits and vegetables ensures that you are getting a variety of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals!
Some nutrients that play a key role in the immune system are:
1. Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, tomatoes
2. Beta Carotene: found in tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli
3. Vitamin D: found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk or juice.
4. Zinc: found in beef, seafood, wheat germ, nuts, and legumes
4. Pick Some Polyphenols
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that helps fight against oxidative stress, inflammation, and chronic diseases. There are over 8,000 types of polyphenols found in various fruits and vegetables.
Olives are rich sources of polyphenols that have a potent ability to fight against free radicals and inflammation.
In the Mediterranean, almost all dishes are prepared with olive oil. The abundance of polyphenols in Mediterranean cuisine plays a key role in the promotion of longevity! (See: 5 Easy Ways to Eat the Mediterranean Way)
Many studies have proven that sleep deprivation has a major detrimental effect on your immune system. People who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick and need longer to recover after being exposed to a virus.
Try to aim for 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night.Make it a habit to go to bed just 30 minutes earlier the night before until you reach your goal!