How to make your meals more nutritious to improve your immune system
Today’s post is brought to you by Petra from Be Healthy Now – She’s passionate about healthy eating, exercise, and nutrition.
Take it away Petra…
Many people turn to supplements in the colder months to keep their immune system strong through the colds and flu season. If you are one of them you should know that there is a lot you can do yourself without resorting to taking supplements. One of the most important things you can do is look at your diet and see how you can make it better and increase the amount of nutrients your body consumes daily naturally. Here are some ideas on how you can make your meals more nutritious and consume more vitamins and minerals without taking any supplements.
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it gives you energy and prevents you from overeating at lunchtime. I would say, yes, it’s important but make it count and don’t just have something quick and sugary.
Try not to eat biscuits, plain toast or sugary cereals. Instead, make it healthier and always includes some fruits with it. That vitamin C will certainly boost your immune system. You can also start your day with lemon water which supplies your body with even more vitamin C. Just put some fresh lemon juice into warm water and drink it the first thing in the morning. This is not only good for your immune system but also for your digestion and to keep you regular.
If you love having porridge in the morning, make sure you add some seeds to it such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Both are rich in zinc, an important mineral that will keep your immune system strong. If you don’t have time in the morning for porridge, prepare overnight oats in the evening and make them more nutritious by adding some blueberries to them and don’t forget about those seeds! You could grate half an apple into them in the morning if you prefer them sweeter, just don’t use any sugar!
Another breakfast idea that will be full of various nutrients essential to keep your immune system strong is a green smoothie. To make it simply use some almond milk (or another non-dairy milk), fruits such as banana or pineapple, a green powder such as Lean Greens and to disguise the ‘green’ taste add some cacao powder. Instead of a green powder, you could use spinach, kale or some other greens. You should also add some fat to your smoothie to make nutrients easier to absorb into your body. Try avocado, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and peanut or almond butter. Experiment with the ingredients and see which flavours you prefer.
To get a variety of nutrients every day, make sure your lunch is not always the same and varies every day. Try and have some veggies with it every day. You could, for example, have vegetable soup with some wholegrain bread or chicken and salad sandwich. Salad is also a good idea, for example, prawn or tuna salad. Sprinkle your salads with pumpkin seeds for an additional zinc boost. An egg sandwich is also a great lunchtime idea as eggs are also rich in zinc. Just make sure you make it at home and use only low-fat mayonnaise if you really have to use mayo. And don’t forget about adding some greens to it such as watercress or rocket.
Try to avoid sugary snacks and sweets as these will weaken your immune system. Instead, go for fresh fruits, unsalted nuts, popcorn and raw fruit and nut bars. If you do like to have biscuits or cake as a snack, try to limit these treats and have them maybe only once or twice a week.Try also hummus with raw vegetables such as carrot, peppers and cucumber. This will add even more nutrients to your diet and will help you stay healthy. Another healthy snack idea is natural yoghurt with some fresh fruits added to it. Just make sure it contains beneficial probiotics which will help keep your gut healthy and this will also result in a healthier immune system.
Don’t forget about your veggies for your dinner as well. Have them cooked, steamed or raw and prepare them in a variety of ways so you don’t get bored. Broccoli tastes amazing with some olive oil, lemon juice and tahini poured over it. When having a salad try adding some crunchy and sweet pomegranate seeds on top. They definitely add that extra flavour and enjoyment to your meal. For your main dish, use as much as garlic as you can. This is an amazing immune booster that is a natural antibiotic as well. Ideally, you would eat it raw to gain all the benefit but when it’s cooked it still preserves some of its benefits. Try not to cook it for too long though and add it at the end when making a soup, stew or a sauce. You could also roast it together with vegetables or fish in the oven.
Talking about fish, eat omega-3 fish often for dinner and your immune system will certainly benefit. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in boosting the immune system as some studies have shown. Fish rich in omega- 3 fatty acids are, for example, salmon, mackerel and sardines. Don’t forget about using herbs and spices when making your dinner. Turmeric, ginger, oregano, thyme and rosemary are particularly beneficial for your immune system. They are packed with antioxidants and various nutrients that will help keep your body healthy. Use ginger in seafood and curries while turmeric will be great in various soups, dahl and rice (curries also).
There is a lot you can do with your diet to boost your immune system naturally, without supplements. The key is to keep your diet varied, making sure you consume enough zinc-rich foods and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to avoid processed sugar as much as you can as this will weaken your immune system. Have sugary treats only once in a while if you can. If you keep your diet varied and healthy, you will be doing a lot for your immune system. There is just one “vitamin” which you may be lacking and you would probably need to supplement with. This is vitamin D which many of us in the UK are deficient in, particularly in winter. Public Health England recommends we all supplement in the colder months so I would recommend you purchase this supplement and start using it as soon as possible if you are not already doing so.