The secret to good health lies in making wise choices about the way we live. With our doors and windows closed during winter, it’s easy to spread a cold, avoid a workout, or feel low on energy.
But there is good news. Easy changes to your everyday lifestyle can help give your immune system everything it needs to help fight infection and illness so you can stop the germs and bacteria before they get in.
Below, registered dietician Kim Hofmann shares three ways to eat right to maintain good health.
A balanced diet is key
Among other factors, a balanced diet is essential here. Take the gut, for example, which plays one of the largest roles in protecting our bodies against pathogens. The gut functions in this capacity by playing host to thousands of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, collectively known as your gut microbiome.
A healthy gut microbiome requires certain nutrients, the most important being fibre, that allow the right sorts of bacteria to grow and proliferate and helps to develop and maintain a strong immune response.
This means more plants and fewer ultra-processed foods, sugars, sweeteners, and preservatives that have been found to reduce the diversity of bacteria in the gut.
Maintaining the right balance of nutrients in the body makes a big difference when your immune system is activated. When a cold or virus-causing pathogen enters the body, our immune response is triggered, demanding a supply of energy. This energy comes from the food that we eat and have eaten, specifically the carbohydrates that the body stores as glycogen in the liver for the body to draw on in these situations to fight off infection.
Keep your diet varied and nutritious
The key to getting the balance of nutrients right is a varied diet. While certain diets are known for their ability to better prepare the body for microbial attacks and excess inflammation, the best approach is one that mixes and matches a variety of foods from all the food groups.
Each stage of the body’s immune response relies on many different micronutrients, and certain ones have been found to be critical to the growth and function of immune cells, including vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein. These nutrients can be found in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and fish, whole grains, legumes as well as plant fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado and olives.
Multivitamins containing the required daily amount of these nutrients can also be taken, but this is for an extra boost, not instead of the food.
Focus on holistic health and wellness
Alongside diet, maintaining a year-long healthy immune system requires a holistic approach to health. This includes exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
In the same way that exercise requires getting into good habits, sleep should be regulated so your body clock, or circadian rhythm, gets used to a certain repetitive cycle. A well-balanced circadian rhythm allows the body to enter a deeper sleep, which should typically last between seven and nine hours.
Immunity is also affected by stress. Managing stress can often be difficult but done in tandem with exercise, regular sleep, and a balanced diet it becomes a lot more manageable.
Read the latest IOL Health digimag here.