Every winter, it rears its ugly head amid the twinkling holiday lights and among parties with family and friends- cold and flu season. Despite the vaccinations that exist to help prevent viral afflictions, germs appear to be lurking everywhere and many feel defenseless against them.
In 2018, it was projected that the global vaccine market was worth 49 billion dollars and was expected to reach over 59 billion by the year 2020. In addition, current research indicates the following:
“…Americans spend $2.9 billion on over-the-counter drugs and another $400 million on prescription medicines for symptom relief from the common cold. Also, more than $1.1 billion are spent annually on the estimated 41 million antibiotic prescriptions for cold sufferers — even though antibiotics have no effect on a viral illness.”
As individuals in developed countries, we have access to a plethora of medical interventions that can help appease the discomfort and pain of illness. However, we also have an amazing material at our fingertips that can help prevent and combat illness that is far more economical and natural than pharmaceutical medicine: food.
At its core, food serves a vital need for all humans, but when it’s utilized appropriately, it becomes so much more than a basic necessity. Research has shown that for the majority of human existence, food has been regarded as a form of medicine- with the ability to not only comfort, but to heal, fuel and strengthen. Yet, the importance of nutrition to support and enhance the immune system often appears to be overlooked in today’s society. Food continues to be viewed as a comfort for a large majority of humans and cultures, but it has lost much of its reputation to be a healing agent amid the overabundance of processed foods that get eaten on the fly, thrown in grocery carts, and served on dining tables. As a society, we have lost touch with what food can do for our health and longevity.
We’ve heard it time and time again- “You are what you eat”- and it’s repeated across the ages for good reason. We may not be what we eat, but our immune systems certainly respond to what we put into our mouths each and every day, which has a profound impact on our overall well-being. It may be true that nutrition does not impact all infections equally and that it is not an end-all, be-all cure for a myriad of illnesses; however, it is a critical determinant of health. It is well-researched that nutritional deficiencies are commonly associated with impaired immune responses and documented that malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency worldwide.
So how do we filter through the copious amounts of food in grocery stores and restaurants to know what will provide us with the support that we need? Here are some guidelines to help guide some winter food gathering:
Shop the perimeter
It’s a common adage now among health-conscious shoppers: avoid the middle aisles at the supermarket. The foods with the most healing properties are the ones with the deepest historical roots, so your best bets will always be fresh fruit and vegetables, grass-fed meats, and cage-free eggs. Organic is recommended, but can get pricey, so be sure to reference the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 list of the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen” foods to help guide your organic decisions. This article outlines the fifteen foods that are considered to have the lowest amounts of pesticides and the twelve foods that have the highest, as well as some other guiding information and buying clean.
Don’t let Vitamin C steal the show
Most know the immune boosting benefits of Vitamin C, which is why so many people pop a Vitamin C gummy or up their citrus fruit intake when feeling under the weather. Know that there are so many other micronutrients that benefit a weakened immune system! These include:
- Vitamin E- found in broccoli, spinach, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds
- Vitamin A- found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, cantaloupes
- Vitamin D- found in fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver
- Zinc- found in shellfish, meat, eggs, nuts, dairy, meat, potatoes, dark chocolate
- Iron- found in leafy greens, whole grains, beans and lentils, tofu, cashews
- Selenium- found in Brazil nuts, mushrooms, beans, seafood, liver, poultry
- Vitamin B6- found in pork, poultry, fish, vegetables, whole grains
Nourish yourself in times of sickness and health
Our bodies respond to so many things in our environment, and no single factor will make or break our health. However, it’s undeniable that what we fuel our bodies with plays a part in our health. When we are sick, it often feels like common sense in what we eat, drink and do- and what we don’t eat, drink and do- to get better. We nourish ourselves with rest and liquids, and with warm soups and simple ingredients when we have the appetite to do so. We stay away from heavy foods, excess alcohol and a packed schedule. But by being proactive by eating right the majority of time and pacing ourselves with balance and intention, we can help to prevent and better fight sickness by reducing our stress levels and arming the cells of our body with the antioxidant vitamins that will help protect our health every day of the year.
Don’t forsake health for convenience
We are busy people in a busy world. It would be unrealistic to place expectations on anyone to cook every single meal in a health-conscious manner without ever resorting to an “easy” meal that will help us move along with our daily tasks. But more often than not, people resort to quick, processed meals the majority of the time in order to continue running on the hamster wheel that life can often be. In the U.S., in particular- where processed, fast food is everywhere you look- it’s too easy to make poor choices for our health. We seem obsessed with convenience, but the price tags include a larger waistline, poorer metabolic health and a weakened immune system. Make an effort to prepare the majority of your meals with pure ingredients in order to take charge of you and your family’s health. Your medical bills will likely reflect this change.
Don’t fall for it
It’s unlikely that the organic cheesy puffs are really that much better for you than original cheesy puffs. It is still highly processed and a poor substitute for real, nourishing foods. Don’t let mass marketing fool you. The fast food industry alone generates revenue of $570 billion globally. The industry does not care about your health, as much as they try to convince you that they do. That being said, if you do purchase snacks for you or your loved ones, educate yourself on reading labels and choose the product that contains the purest, most unaltered ingredients.
Let technology help you take charge.
Download an app such as EWG’s Food Scores, MyFitnessPal, and/or Nutrients to help you in your journey to health. It’s easy to think something is healthy when it may not be, and some apps, including MyFitnessPal, contain helpful data that allow you to see both the macronutrients and micronutrients you are receiving from the foods you eat each day. See the list of recommended health apps below for more suggestions!
Recognize that it’s a battle, but it doesn’t have to be a losing one
In addition to the temptation of highly palatable pseudo-foods and the lure of convenience, it is important to note another unfortunate battle that the food industry has created- cost. When you can walk into a typical fast food restaurant restaurant with $5 and order either five burgers or one salad, it’s no wonder that many will choose quantity over quality (although the nutritional content of that fast-food salad is also worth questioning). For some, particularly those of low socioeconomic status, it’s a battle they don’t feel prepared to fight. Major flaws do exist in the retail pricing of healther vs non-healthier foods, but be a smart shopper. Shop the sales in the produce market; buy a whole chicken and learn how to cook each part of it in order to make multiple meals; use a slow cooker to prepare easy meals that will last you for days at a time.
Nutrition is not just about eating. It is about eating to build our immunity and to support our brain and body, day in and day out. While there are so many obstructions to eating for health in today’s society, it is vital to educate yourself, to plan ahead and to take claim of your own health. No one else will do it for you.
Recommended Health Apps:
- MyFitnessPal – calorie counter, diet tracker and nutritional info provider
- EWG’s Food Scores – search database for food health information and ratings
- Nutrition – recipe tracker and food journal
- Fooducate Nutrition Tracker – calorie, macro and ingredient tracker
- Headspace – guided meditation for stress reduction
- Healthtap – instant 24/7 access to doctors for your health queries
Recommended Health Reading:
- Genius Foods, by Max Lugavere
- The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for
- Life, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D
- Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, by Catherine Shanahan, M.D.
- Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods, by Anthony William
Recommended Health Podcasts:
- The Genius Life, Max Lugavere
- Dishing Up Nutrition, National Weight & Wellness, Inc.
- TEDTalks Health
- 20 Minute Fitness, Shape
- Food Heaven Podcast, Dear Media
- National Blood Donor Month
Give a part of yourself to others in need and consider donating blood. Click this link to find local blood banks near you. You could save a life!
- National Birth Defects Prevention Month
Click here to access 5 Tips for Preventing Birth Defects.
Thank you to all of our families for making our Winter Wonderland Festival a success! We enjoyed sharing in the holiday joy with your child and we hope we helped to create some extra magic. We extend our deepest wishes for a healthy and happy 2019!