Be Real: Ways to Boost Your Health with Food
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to drag on, my family had to make some decisions. Would we continue to struggle with home-schooling and working from home under less than ideal conditions? Or would we allow our children to go back to in-person school?
It is a really difficult decision - just like so many decisions right now. My husband and I weighed the options for what seemed like months. And, we finally decided it was actually better for our kids and for us - both for our mental and physical health - to have the kids go back to in-person school.
We are about a week (or less) into the new routine, but so far it seems to be really helping everyone. For the kids, it is a return to some sense of normalcy. They are able to ask questions to the teacher better and get extra help. And, they are able to see and interact with other kids! This might be the hugest win for them because they have not been around other kids since last March!
For my husband and me, it has allowed us to breathe. And by that I mean, it has allowed us to stress just a little bit less about how we will manage all of our work - we both work full-time - and also it allows us to actually get back to just being parents and not also trying to be teachers (a role we have learned we aren't really qualified for).
So things are looking pretty great right now.
That being said, one thing I wanted to start to focus on now that we are all around other people more is working to help our bodies be the healthiest they can be. Being healthy and eating healthy foods not only makes you feel great, it can help ward off some sickness.
Here are some of the healthiest foods you can eat (research source: Dr. William Li)
Healthy Foods for Your Immune System
# 1: Mushrooms and Broccoli - These vegetables are a respiratory power duo. Mushrooms increase the secretion of an antibody called IgA, present in your mucous membranes and saliva. It’s an important first line of defense against any invader. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts are another booster because they contain sulforaphane, a sulfur-based nutrient that neutralizes toxins and helps decrease inflammation.
# 2: Eat A Cup of Blueberries per Day - Blueberries are full of antioxidants that enhance your immune system. A study by the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism in Canada in 2011 found blueberries can increase the number of natural killer cells, which are critical to immune responses that eliminate virus-infected cells or tumor cells. In the study, participants had a little less than two cups of blueberries per day for six weeks, and about three cups given an hour prior to two and a half hours of running on a treadmill. The blueberries doubled the number of natural killer cells they had in their bloodstream. They can also help our immune system develop learned responses to foreign invaders. Besides being delicious, they make a great additive to breakfast meals and can be a healthy snack.
# 3: Enjoy A Glass of Black or Green Tea - Tea has been shown to improve our gut microbiome. A June 2020 study conducted by the School of Basic Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar in India found that people who drink green or black tea have more healthy bacteria in their guts. A balanced microbiome is crucial for your overall health. Make it a goal to have a cup of tea per day.
# 4: Help Yourself to A Handful of Nuts - Nuts are a healthy source of fiber, protein, and fat. I recommend mixing it up with a handful of almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, or pecans daily. Nuts contain Omega-3s and others are rich in healthy fiber, which feeds your gut microbiome. When shopping, look for unsalted or lightly salted varieties. Salted nuts can have upward of 200 milligrams of sodium per ounce and lightly salted nuts contain about 45 to 95 milligrams.
# 5: Have A Serving of Leafy Greens - Leafy greens like arugula, kale, and spinach contain nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide, the molecule naturally produced by your body responsible for promoting proper blood flow. When you chew spinach, the microbiome of your tongue actually converts the nitrates in that spinach that comes from the soil, into a form that your stomach can digest, and turns it into nitric oxide, which then goes into your bloodstream. Boosting your nitric oxide level helps to lower your blood pressure and improve your brain function.