How Your Nutrition and Hydration Can Help Support Your Immune System
- Written by Holly Larson, Registered Dietitian
Nutrition is fuel for being able to move, focus and feel our very best. It can also support overall wellness, especially in stressful and uncertain times like this. A healthy eating plan helps to lower anxiety and keep our immune system in top shape. Here are some ideas for things you can do, right now, to boost your family’s health.
Eat the Rainbow
Each day, make it a fun activity with your kids to see if you can eat all the colors of the rainbow. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables provides us with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals which all help combat disease and illness.
It can also combat the effects that stress has on our bodies. When our bodies experience oxidative stress, antioxidants, the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in our fruits and vegetables, fix the damage. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, stimulate blood flow to different organs and can help us recover much quicker from illness.
Some examples to incorporate into your day are fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, fruit leathers, applesauce, smoothies/popsicles, veggie chips, or veggie-based pastas. Frozen fruit can be put in your oatmeal or dairy free yogurt for a sweet, yet healthy breakfast. Frozen vegetables work perfectly in stir fries, soups and stews.
Purple. Examples of purple fruits and vegetables include eggplant, dried prunes, concord grape juice, fresh or frozen blueberries, and raisins. Benefits of purple produce include antioxidative and antimicrobial activities, improve neurological health, and protection against many chronic diseases.
White. Examples include onions, garlic, bananas, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, leeks and mushrooms. Benefits of white produce include reducing inflammation and lowered cholesterol.
Greens. Examples of green fruits and veggies include kiwis, green beans, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, kale, brussels sprouts, celery and green grapes. Benefits of green produce include developing strong bones and teeth, improved mood and a reduced risk of cataracts.
Red. Examples of red fruits and vegetables include fresh or frozen raspberries, fresh or dried cherries, canned tomatoes, canned beets, dried cranberries. Benefits of red produce include repairing our cells from antioxidant damage, preventing certain types of cancer and helping to protect our skin from the sun.
Orange: Examples of orange fruits and veggies include carrots, canned pumpkin, frozen butternut squash, sweet potatoes, oranges and apricots. Benefits of orange produce include improved night vision, an immune boost and improved cognition.
While the availability of fresh produce might be changing right now, it may be helpful to know that all forms of fruits and vegetables offer a health boost - this includes fresh, frozen, dried and canned.
Reduce Added Sugars
Sugary and processed foods lack nutrients that our bodies need to function at their best -- which puts us at risk for illness and disease. Added sugar also feeds the bad bacteria in our gut, which can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. When we don’t have the right amount of good bacteria, we are at increased risk of leaky gut and illness.
Added sugar comes in many forms including white granulated sugar, brown sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose and brown rice syrup.
By focusing on natural sugar from fruits and vegetables, you’re also gaining the benefit of extra vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that can help ward off illness.
Choose Foods that Contain Gelatin
Gelatin is an ingredient known for improving and repairing the lining of your gut. You can find gelatin in foods like homemade chicken soup with bone broth, and add gelatin to foods like homemade gummy snacks, smoothies and popsicles.
Plain, unflavored gelatin can be found in the baking aisle of your grocery store as well as online in bigger containers. Try adding 100% juice to make a homemade gelatin dessert with no added sugars or dyes.
Having enough water throughout each day is essential to maintaining good health and immunity.
Increasing your water intake can help flush out toxins, ward off illness and help us reset your system. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water daily - and remember, by the time thirst hits, we are already dehydrated. How do you know if you’re hydrated enough? Your urine should be pale, like lemonade. If your urine is dark, like apple juice, you’re dehydrated.
Here are some beverages to help keep hydration at bay:
Sparkling water and seltzer water
Unsweetened hot or iced tea
Kombucha (fermented tea)
Homemade sports drinks - see our recipe below
Soups and Broths
Remember, Building Good Nutrition is a Process
Building new healthy eating habits can take time. All we can do is make the best choices for the the moment we’re in. Be patient with yourself and in time, you’ll begin to see the progres and benefits of your new healthy eating plan.
Finally, it’s important to note that no eating plan or supplement can fully protect you from getting sick. The most effective measures to protect yourself and your family are to stay home as much as possible, stay at least six feet away from strangers and practice diligent handwashing. If you think you might already be sick, please call your doctor and follow these recommendations.
Here are some recipes to help you explore some of these immune-boosting tips!
Recipes That Support Your Immune System at Home
Citrus Sports Drink
Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash
1/2 cup orange or grapefruit juice
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 cups water (or 1 cup water + 1 cup coconut water)
1/8 tsp salt
Add all ingredients into a large bottle and shake vigorously until combined.
Homemade Gummy Treats
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
1 cup 100% juice
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
¼ cup plain gelatin
In a small saucepan, combine the juice and the maple syrup or honey and heat over medium heat until steaming hot (just before boiling).
Lower the heat to the lowest setting. Whisk in the gelatin one tablespoon at a time, making sure each tablespoon is fully dissolved in the liquid before adding the next.
Once the gelatin is fully dissolved, remove from the heat and use a dropper to put in your gummy molds. Or, pour into a glass dish.
Put in the refrigerator to firm up completely - if your molds are small like my gummy bears, it should only take about 10 to 15 minutes for them to firm up enough to pop out. If using a dish, the gummies can be cut into small cubes once set.
Store the gummies in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Brain Balance helps children who struggle behaviorally, socially, and academically through a holistic and integrated approach that is customized to meet the needs of each child. One component of our program is The Balance 360 System, which is a step-by-step program designed to help parents customize a nutrition plan for their child. We've helped tens of thousands of families and have amazing success stories. Find out more: The Balance 360 System