Catherine Jeans | www.thefamilynutritionexpert.com
It’s been an astounding few months in lockdown, with many of us feeling that so much has been taken out of our control – including the foods that we normally have such plentiful access to. But as lockdown starts to ease for so many of us, it’s great to know that we can actually take back some control, and focus on a few key nutritional and lifestyle strategies that might actually help support our immune systems and resilience to viruses.
Of course, everyone’s health and wellbeing is different and some of us are more naturally vulnerable than others. Yet simple dietary changes and lifestyle tweaks can potentially make quite a difference to our immune resilience. Here are my top 3 strategies for immune health:
- Keep your sugar low and your blood sugar balanced.
Sugar isn’t great for our immune system, but most of us eat far too much of it. It’s hidden literally everywhere – even in foods which don’t taste sweet! Have a think about how much processed and sweet food you eat, and try to work on reducing this. You can reduce your sweet cravings by keeping your blood sugar levels more balanced on a daily basis – swap refined white carbs like biscuits and white bread to more slow releasing wholegrain complex carbs such as wholemeal flour, sweet potato, pulses and more vegetables. Including plenty of protein in your diet such as good quality meat and fish, eggs, dairy, beans and pulses – these can all help to support healthy glycemic control.
- Get outside and top up your Vitamin D.
Even before this current pandemic we knew about the importance of vitamin D for our immune systems, and now research is suggesting it may have a role in protection against and our response to viruses. Get some outside time daily – as the sunshine on our skin is our main source, but do protect your skin from burning. If you’re having to spend a lot of time indoors, then do supplement with some extra Vitamin D3. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure how much you may need. The average adult needs around 800 to 1000iu per day (up to 25mcg) – but do check it’s okay for you to take Vitamin D if you have any health problems or take any medication.
- Get in the veggies!
If there’s one food group that is beneficial for our health on so many levels, it’s the vegetables! Vegetable eaters live longer. Vegetable eaters tend to have a healthier gut microbiome (also vital for our immune systems). Try to include lots of different colours – eat the rainbow every day and don’t overdo the fruit. Ideally we should have 7 portions of veg a day and 2 to 3 fruits. Yes 10 a day is the optimal! If your access to fresh is limited, then frozen is fine! You can add a handful of berries to your breakfast cereal or porridge. Make a green smoothie for a snack – spinach, cucumber, mint, ginger and ice with a ripe pear or some banana is my favourite. Or add veg to every meal – veggie sticks with lunch, extra salad, grated veg into your evening meals.