Strong immune system = Happy you? YES!
August 9, 2020 | Hui Hui Lee, MS,RD/LD
Does it mean to have a strong immune system you need to be on the most expensive diet and/or supplements? My answer to that is NO! A simple answer to a strong immune system is to find a balance in life. I know, I know. It is too vague. Therefore, in the month of August we are going to talk about this balance of life (my own personal opinion).
Life (again, from my own point of view) is made up of many components, including work/career, diet/food, physical activity, social life, health conditions (physical and mental), and many more. They are all connected to each other.
I can’t be an expert in every field, but all I know is that when our lives go off balance, our immune system may be compromised.
It is important to know when to draw an ENOUGH line.
1. Work: DO NOT mix together work life and personal life. Enjoy your off-work time with family/friends or even with yourself, you can think/talk about work when you're at work.
2. Social Life: Social life is not limited to physically hanging out with family/friends, you can also call or video chat with them (I have been only able to video chat with my family for the past 4 years). One study believes that social interaction has the benefits of emotional and physical health (Umberson & Montez, 2010)
3. Physical activity: it does not just help to burn calories, but also helps improve sleep quality, mood, and strengthen your immune system.
4. Medical condition(s): make sure you consult and follow up with your doctor(s) about your medical condition(s). Stay compliant to medications and other recommendations from your physician(s).
5. Quality sleep: according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most adults require approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. If you constantly lack sleep (including having poor quality of sleep), you are at increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. For tips to getting good quality of sleep, see check out the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
To have a strong immune system, how can we miss the most important part: DIET (aka food). A healthy, balanced diet should be simple, and it can also be budget-friendly. Always ask yourself will the diet (you choose) stick? Does it include all the food groups? If the answers for both questions are YES, then it is the GO-FOR-IT diet.
1. MAIN POINT: a little of this and a little of that (food) makes your diet sound fun and long-lasting. “With a little of everything” also helps increase your chances to consume a variety of nutrients. Nutrients that support your immune system are protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zinc, and other nutrients (Klemm, 2019).
2. Choose fresh, less processed food.
a. Most of the highly processed food contains a lot of unnecessary sodium, sugars, and unhealthy fat. The nutrients are degraded in most of the highly processed foods.
b. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain an excellent source of nutrients.
c. Frozen and unseasoned fruits and vegetables may be the better options compared to canned when the fresh option is not available.
3. Practice small frequent meals
a. Portion control is the highlight here. Eating a large amount of food NOT EQUAL to the amount of nutrients absorbed into your body. But it sure does cause us to unintentionally consume WAY TOO MANY CALORIES (which means unintended weight gain)
4. Take your time enjoying your meals. Chew through the food before swallowing. It helps with better digestion and prevents overeating.
5. Rethink your protein sources. Animal proteins (meats, poultry, egg, fish, seafood) are not the only source of protein, try plant proteins too (beans, lentils, peas, soyfoods, nuts, seeds, and whole grains). Plant proteins provide not just protein, they also contain excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (antioxidants).
6. Choose unsweetened, calorie-free beverages to help you stay hydrated.
I am guessing you have doubts about how to practice a well balanced diet. Let me show you how I pull together three-day menus (including breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in less than 3 hours.
Breakfast: scrambled eggs + 1 slice of whole wheat bread + fresh grapes
Lunch: Burrito (wrapped with grilled chicken, lentils, spinach, corn, avocado, mozzarella cheese, and salsa) served with a piece of orange (on the side)
Dinner: Tangy greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries, strawberry slices, and almonds
Breakfast: Oatmeal with ground flax seed+cranberries+almond milk
Lunch: Hearty spaghetti with lentils & marinara sauce (recipe adapted from Cookie+Kate)
Dinner: Grilled cheese sandwich (it is not a simple grilled cheese sandwich, I included avocado and spinach) and served with some fresh strawberries.
Breakfast: Classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich served with a piece of apple
Lunch: Brown rice served with grilled chicken and stir-fried choy sum
Dinner: Tangy greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries, strawberry slices, and almonds (I just love yogurt so much, don’t mind having yogurt more than one time for dinner)
Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146510383501
Klemm, S. (2019). Support your health with nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition