Your Systems are Connected
Did you know that your immune system and your mood have a direct relationship with each other?
With Back-to-School around the corner, the stress of the virus, the changes of the season, unintentional weight gain from the Covid-continuum and the sadness of what is happening in the world at large, it makes sense that we feel out of sorts and vulnerable to attack from one direction or another. While the human form is incredible and the human body is wired to deal with most of what comes at it, we do need to help it along the way. Like our immune systems protect us, we too must protect our immunity.
Immune system responses and moods have the potential to cross talk to one another. All the different cross-talks between immune system cells and mood reflect a homeostatic process — a fundamental mechanism to maintain a healthy state of both mind and body. With so much recent disruption to our daily routines and added stressors, it is more important than ever to take care of ourselves. And food is an important way to do that.
After all, we are what we eat.
Many whole, natural foods have immune-boosting superpowers to help keep you healthy both physically and mentally. Whether you are looking to gain motivation, deal with anxiety or to crowd out bad food choices for better ones, it should be back to basics for everyone.
Simply said, it is important to consume the right foods to power up that incredible human form and give your body what it needs to thrive, and it will give the very same back to you in return.
When thinking about improving your immunity, you must first look to your gut. Your microbiome plays a vital role in keeping you in top health and balancing your mood. Your gut health is incredibly important for your immune system function to be at its maximum ability - to fight off virus, inflammation, and disease. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that more than 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut. Your intestinal tract is long and mighty, full of 500+ different varieties of bacteria that either work together with your immune system to ward off disease or they can work against it.
If your diet is full of artificial sweeteners, refined flours and sugars, processed snacks, and foods-not-of-nature it is likely affecting your immune system and un-arming your defenses against germs, exhaustion and, overall malaise —not to mention weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and overall inflammation of the body.
Foods that weaken the immune system can also add to anxiety levels.
If you have noticed that your anxiety levels are up, look to foods that can help you achieve mental, emotional, and physical balance. The simple thought of adding new, energizing, delicious, immune boosting foods to your diet can help motivate you. Commit to starting a new routine, crowd out the foods that deplete you and enter in more of the foods that fuel you. Try some calming foods too and give your body a helpful tool for anxiety.
Try Adding some of these hero foods to your meals and as choices.
• Legumes: A class of vegetables that includes beans, peas, and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available and they are nutritional powerhouses when it comes to optimizing energy levels, improving digestion, and keeping you full. Legumes have an impressive nutrition profile but few calories relative to the nutrients they contain. High in protein, they are an excellent alternative to animal protein and can help manage blood sugar levels. Eat them as a snack or add them to a colorful stir fry, legumes also contain folic acid — which keeps your body producing red blood cells and iron.
• Blueberries: This powerful berry is small and sweet, but mighty and nutritious. A superfood among superfoods, blueberries are low in calories but full of essential nutrients and benefits. A great source of fiber, blueberries give you long-lasting energy, they are full of polyphenols and are the Queen of antioxidants. They support our cells which in turn supports our youthful glow, our brain function, circulatory health, and our immune system.
• Avocado: Actually, a type of berry, there is a range of benefits when it comes to this creamy hero. The healthy fats found in avocados are essential for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients you consume and help us reduce risk of certain diseases. They are also rich in nutrients, a great source of fiber, B6 vitamins, C, E, K, magnesium, potassium beta carotene, Omega-3 and more! I certainly wouldn't oppose updating that old saying to “an avocado a day keeps the doctor away.”
• Brown Rice: Brown rice means you are eating the rice as a whole grain. That is important because the less processed the grain the more nutrients you get.
A 1/2 cup of brown rice is a great source of fiber keeping you feeling fuller, phenols and flavonoids, two types of antioxidants that help reduce damage to cells and manganese —a vital nutrient that allows your body to get energy from the macronutrients in brown rice. Pair it with your favorite plant-based proteins and veggies for a quick, delicious, energizing, and immune-boosting meal.
• Turmeric: Antioxidants found in turmeric can combat depression and inflammation. On top of all its nutritional benefits, turmeric’s eye-catching color can remind you to take some calming breaths. I call it plant based medicine. Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as both a spice and medicinal herb. Recently, science has started to back up traditional claims that turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties. These compounds are called curcuminoids. The most important one is curcumin. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.
• Dark Chocolate: Seeing chocolate on this list probably has a calming effect of its own, but the flavonoids found in this sweet treat are also important for helping blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate is a good source of cacao, which helps your memory and helps support your immune system. Be sure to buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, it’s quite nutritious and it contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals like copper, magnesium, and iron. The bioactive compounds in cocoa may improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
• Leafy Greens: Leafy greens are an excellent source of magnesium, which supports an important receptor in the brain that sends out a signal to encourage the body to calm down. Greens are also full of vital micronutrients that keep the immune system functioning at its highest potential. The vitamin K contents of dark green leafy vegetables also provide several health benefits including protecting bones from osteoporosis and helping to prevent against inflammatory diseases. Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods.
At the end of the day, we are not in control of a lot of things, but we are in control of what we put into our bodies. Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself by leaning into clean, plant-based foods and ingredient options that will fuel your body — you will be glad you did!!