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Are You Nourishing Your Immune System?

During a recent program, a participant suggested that I offer a class on boosting your immune system. I never thought about teaching a class on this topic but when I think about it, I have been doing it through the various nutrition classes I already teach.

The words immune system usually come up when people are sick such as a cold, the flu or if someone is going through cancer treatment. So, what is the immune system? The immune system functions throughout our body. The immune cells recognize substances that enter our bodies and attempt to remove them if they appear to be harmful to us. This is one reason why good nutrition plays a vital role in keeping your body healthy. Research shows that consuming a healthy diet is one of the best ways to nourish your immune system.

Protein is an excellent choice in the diet to help keep your immune system healthy. It is a macronutrient and is needed in large amounts. Make sure to get adequate amounts of foods that are good protein sources as it is built from building blocks called amino acids. A few amino acids, known as essential amino acids, must come from food. It is important to know that all protein is not alike. There is animal protein that delivers all the amino acids we need. And, there is the protein that comes from nuts, seeds, vegetables, grains, and fruit as they lack one or more essential amino acids.

If we do not get enough protein in our diet, our bodies may produce less of certain immune cells and increase susceptibility to infections. Good protein choices include lean beef, salmon, tuna, chicken, black beans, mozzarella cheese, yogurt, milk, almonds and eggs. Of course, meat, salmon and poultry contain more protein than almonds or eggs.

Consume foods that contain antioxidants such as Vitamins A & E and Selenium. Vitamin A keeps the skin and tissues of the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. If you are not in the nutrition and health profession, you may not hear much about selenium. A deficiency in selenium has been shown to decrease immune cells disease-fighting power. It is a trace mineral and your body only needs it in small amounts. Plant foods, such as vegetables, are the most common dietary sources of selenium. How much selenium is in the vegetables you eat depends on how much of the mineral was in the soil where the plants grew. Brazil nuts are a very good source of selenium. Fish, shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, liver, and garlic are also good sources. Meats produced from animals that ate grains or plants found in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium. Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and enriched breads are also good sources of selenium.

The nutrients above are just a few that will help nourish your immune system. No one nutrient will do the trick by itself. The key to staying healthy is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes—meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and whole grains. Reduce fat (especially saturated and trans fats), sugar, and sodium in your diet.

Finally, exercise plays an important role to a healthy, strong immune system. Regular exercise, at least 30 minutes at least three to five times per week, helps your entire body by helping you maintain a healthy body weight.

Take steps now to nourish your immune system by choosing a healthier diet as well as exercising. For additional information, visit these websites https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cancer or contact Dr. Moore at (850) 784-6105.

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