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March 18, 2010 at 12:06 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Healthy Foods for a Healthy Immune System

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Generally speaking, we all know what foods are good for us and which ones aren't. Healthy eating should focus more on getting the most out of the calories that we consume by opting for smart choices over easy ones. A well-balanced diet keeps our minds and bodies sharp, and helps our immune system function at its best.

Healthy Immune System Basics

Apart from specific diseases, the most common factors which affect the immune system are lifestyle habits. We all engage in activities that may not be best for our health, at least occasionally, whether it's smoking, consuming alcohol, eating poorly, or not managing stress properly. But these are the few factors that we actually have control over. Life can throw us curve balls, but maintaining healthy habits will go a long way in keeping our bodies and minds healthy.

The Immune System

The immune system is a network of cells and organs that work together to protect us from disease and infection. Think of your immune system as the security force protecting civilians and preventing harm and anarchy. One weakened link will put the whole city at risk. Our immune systems are weakened by any number of factors: stress, fatigue, sleep deprivation, unhealthy diet, smoking, or excessive alcohol or drug use.

Healthy Foods for a Healthy Immune System

Eating well is simple: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, while also being light on calories. The idea is easy; it's putting it into practice that's hard. However, once basic habits are formed, you'll find eating well to be fun and tasty.

Main Food Groups

Focus on choosing foods from these groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Whole grains
  • Good fats

Fruits and Vegetables

Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible in a day. Instead of chips, pack some veggies and low fat dressing. If you make a hot meal at home, add at least 2 to 3 different vegetables. Make a fruit salad, and keep it at work to munch on. Opt for produce of as many colors as possible; each colored fruit or vegetable has different nutrients. For example, make a fruit salad with strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cantaloupe, and mango. Drizzle with honey and you're good to go.

Lean Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient for our bodies and brains. Choose lean proteins over high-fat, especially when consuming animal protein. Try to consume one meatless meal a week, choosing beans or legumes instead of animal protein, which has more cholesterol and calories. Beans and legumes are cholesterol free, high in protein and fiber, as well as antioxidants. The easiest way to eat beans is in soup; try chili for maximum flavor.

Low Fat Dairy

Dairy is a great source of calcium and protein as long as you choose the low fat or fat free variety. Or, you could try soy or rice products for a dairy-free alternative.

Whole Grains

We don't get enough whole grains these days. Instead of white bread, rice, or pasta try a whole wheat variety. White flour is refined, which removes virtually all the nutrients from the flour, making white bread and rice virtually empty calories. Try different grains including oats, wheat bran, couscous, cornmeal, or barley.

Good Fats

Choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats that occur naturally in nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and avocados. These fats help to reduce cholesterol and keep your body functioning smoothly.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/eat-beat-stress

http://www.canadianliving.com/health/nutrition/foods_for_a_healthy_immune_system.php

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