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Boosting your immune system critical to fend off diseases like COVID-19, but it need not be a boring effort

Now, more than ever before, it is essential to do all we can to keep ourselves -- and our immune systems -- healthy and working at optimum capacity.

The ravages of COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc on people, the number of positive cases once again spiking and the death count growing. On Wednesday, Miami-Dade County reported 1,687 new cases and a first time positivity rate of 7.18 percent, a day after reporting a positivity rate of 8.42 percent, the highest since early August.

Following the CDC guidelines -- wearing masks in public, keeping a safe distance and self-quarantining when symptoms strike -- are as important as ever. But there is also a plethora of protection awaiting us in local grocery and health stores.

The true power of eating well comes from prolonged patterns of making good choices. Eating well balanced meals. Drinking enough water. Ensuring you are taking the right vitamins.

The best diets work to strengthen our immune systems, among other things. But if you are like most people, starting a trendy new diet is the last thing you want to do. Sure, they may work for a while, but as soon as you return to your old ways, the results vanish.

But what if the path forward was as simple as adding more healthy foods? What if just drinking more water could help fight off illnesses?

Happily, both food and water do have a powerful effect on your immune system, thus your health.

Insufficient water intake “creates homeostasis imbalance and you’re asking for disease,” reported Fitness Volt, a website devoted to reporting cutting edge information about professional bodybuilding, fitness and other sports.

“Dehydration can be linked with hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and obesity,” the sports media organization reported. “It can even affect how your brain works.”

Here are some signs that you are not getting enough water: chapped lips, dizziness, dry skin, hair loss and lack of energy.

The Institute of Medicine, a non-profit devoted to providing research on health policy, supplying medical information, recommends 13 cups of water a day for men, nine for women and 10 for pregnant women. There is of course no one size fits all, it should be based on an individual’s energy output, body mass and other health factors.

And as Fitness Volt noted in a recent article on the immune system, people get water from the foods we eat like fruits and vegetables.

So, remember that the next time you reach for a drink; water is the healthy choice.

Harvard Medical School has published several articles on the benefits of specific foods to boost immune systems. Their research indicates that a healthy diet has the power to reduce heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and even some forms of cancer. Why? Because a healthy diet helps build our immune systems. In the context of 2020, a strong immune system helps it fight off the potential ravages of a disease like COVID.

Certain foods are so packed with immune boosting properties they are called “superfoods.” Here are some examples of superfoods, as supplied by Karen D. McManus of the Harvard Health Blog and Fitness Volt.

SEAFOOD

Key Biscayne is uniquely positioned to reap maximum benefits of one of the most powerful superfoods: seafood. Along with being a rich protein source, fish has omega-3 fatty oils, which help prevent heart disease. Tuna, salmon and trout have some of the highest omega-3 contents, but any fresh fish (frozen or canned, for that matter), is rich with omega-3.

BERRIES

Berries are high in fiber, which benefits digestive systems. And they are also full of antioxidants, which protect cells from cancer-causing free radicals. Again, frozen is as good as fresh, which makes them a convenient and healthy addition to your diet. Pack a powerful immune system boost by adding a handful of blueberries to your cereal or a cup of strawberries in a smoothie.

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C contributes to a healthy immune system by supporting various cell functions. It also protects the skin against pathogens and oxidative stress from the environment. Fitness Volt reports that vitamin C contributes to the production and function of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, and has numerous other immune-boosting benefits. Some foods high in Vitamin C include: citrus fruits, spinach, bell peppers, kiwi and papaya.

NUTS

These little treasures are full of monounsaturated fats, which can lower the risk of heart disease. If you are trying to lose weight, be careful of the calories in nuts. Each type nut has its own unique benefit. Almonds, for example, have a lower fat level than pecans. But all nuts are packed with ‘good fats’ -- so don’t let that scare you off.

YOGURT

Probiotics, which are “good bacteria,” help the body fight off harmful bacteria in our digestive systems. Yogurts are full of these live cultures. Yogurt can be substituted for sour cream in most recipes, and is a healthy snack. Just be careful with flavored yogurts since many have added sugars. Try mixing in your own fruit for a healthier sweetener, and remember to buy yogurt with live cultures.

LEAFY GREENS

Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as lettuces, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts all contain phytochemical that may prevent some types of cancer. They are also a rich source of fiber and vitamins.

ZINC

Zinc is a mineral vital to immune health. It’s also required for cell metabolism, protein synthesis, enzyme activity, growth/development, and a few other processes. A deficiency often results in impaired immune system function. Foods high in zinc are shellfish such as oysters, although poultry and red meat typically make up most of the intake in the American diet.

YOU SAY TOMATOES…

No matter how you say tomatoes, they -- along with olive oil, legumes, whole grains, and, in fact, all superfoods -- are power-packed with immune system-boosting nutrients that work to keep us healthy. And, lets not forget, they also provide delicious flavors for any meal.

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