Nutrition

The Best Foods & Nutrients to boost your immune system this Winter

What can I do to support my immune system? I get asked this question constantly during the winter months! First of all, the immune system is very complex and there are so many factors involved in maintaining a balanced immune system— sleep, stress, environmental toxins, age, food, etc. There is no one food or nutrient that will dictate how your immune system is functioning or responding by itself. However, there are a variety of important nutrients that we know the immune system requires to function optimally and it can be beneficial to make sure you are getting enough of these on a daily basis!

Include more of these important immune supporting foods and nutrients to help stave off winter sickness:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is not THE answer to immunity despite what many might think, but it is an important vitamin to consider! Vitamin C deficiency can contribute to a reduced resistance against some pathogens. Adequate intake of vitamin C prior to getting sick might also help reduce the length of illness. Most people do not need to supplement with Vitamin C because it can easily be obtained from food (remember – food first! Always.). Great sources of Vitamin C include green leafy vegetables, strawberries, wild blueberries, bell pepper, brussels sprouts and citrus fruit. Because Vitamin C is water soluble and not stored in the body, you need to eat a variety of Vitamin C rich foods daily. Also note: excessive supplementation will not provide a benefit (you will just excrete the excess).

Zinc

Zinc is closely involved with the immune system and the regulation of inflammation. Adequate zinc can help control and fight infections in the body. Your body does not store zinc, so it’s important to consistently include zinc rich foods to maintain adequate levels! Some of my favorites include oysters, legumes (chickpeas, black beans, lentils), meat and poultry (organic whenever possible!), nuts and seeds.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency is linked with a reduced ability to resist infection. Include more Vitamin A rich foods on a daily basis including sweet potato, carrots, dark leafy greens and bell pepper.

Vitamin D

Okay – this is the exception to my “food first” philosophy. The most absorbable form of Vitamin D comes from the sun, which those of us who live above the 36 latitude line can’t get from about October through May. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infections and autoimmune disease.  During the winter months, I recommended supplementing with D3. I take 2000 IU/day for maintenance, but higher doses may be required to correct deficiency. Check with your dietitian or healthcare provider for specific recommendations.

Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are amazing chemical compounds and powerful modulators of inflammation. Utilizing you spice cabinet can help support all of the work that your immune system is doing on a daily basis to protect your body and remain in balance. Include more herbs and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, thyme and rosemary.

Probiotics

Last but not least – probiotics! 70% of the immune system is found within the lining of the gut, so as you can imagine, the bacteria in the gut are very closely involved with the regulation of inflammation and immunity. Recent research has shown that supplementing with probiotics may hep fight the common cold and upper respiratory infections. Because gut health and the bacteria in our guts are closely involved with so many important bodily processes, I recommend including probiotic rich foods on a daily basis. Some of my favorites include yogurt (organic & unsweetened is best!), kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables.


Immune boosting almond butter smoothie

Serves 1


Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana

  • 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries

  • 1/3 cup plain unsweetened greek yogurt (2% fat recommended)

  • 1 tbsp cacao powder

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1-2 tbsp almond butter

  • 2 handfuls of spinach

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk. Increase or decrease amount to desired consistency.

Directions

  1. Blend ingredients together in a high speed blender. Add more liquid until you reach your desired consistency.

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What you should really be focusing on when it comes to food and nutrition in 2019

Around the Holidays and with the start of the New Year, we are totally inundated with messages on social media and tv promoting all sorts of diet plans and detoxes. I get it - Holiday eating is often far from normal and can leave us feeling a little run down. After what feels like 2 weeks of non-stop celebrating with family and friends, I definitely notice a difference in how I feel. Layer on a lack of sleep + little movement and here I am feeling a little bit sluggish, and I'd be lying if I didn't say my digestion has been far from normal (TMI?).

This to me is a sign that I should focus on incorporating more of the foods and behaviors back into my life that make me feel my best - energized, clear headed and well rested. Not a crazy cleanse or quick fix diet. Not because of the number on a scale. Not because I want to make up for the food I ate last month (because I will continue to drink wine and eat cheese this month and every month of 2019).

I understand the appeal that diets and cleanses may have on the surface, but you are doing yourself a disservice by engaging in behaviors that deprive your body of essential energy and nutrients. Buzzwords like cleanse and detox are thrown around irresponsibly (especially this time of year!), making it seem as though we need to follow a radical diet to improve our health. Let's talk about the truth when it comes to detoxes.

Our bodies have built in detoxification systems including kidneys, lungs, a liver, the colon and the lymphatic system (just to name a few) to remove unwanted substances from our bodies and to regulate bodily processes for optimal health. Our bodies are pretty dang good at what they do, but they cannot do their best work under conditions of deprivation and stress (aka cleanses and restrictive diets).

In order for the body’s detoxification systems to work optimally, a variety of nutrients are required to make this happen. For example: your liver needs adequate amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and selenium to function. Juice cleanses and other restrictive diets actually deprive your body of many of these essential nutrients.

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I am all for starting the New Year with a fresh set of goals and intentions, but I truly loathe the messages that make us feel as though we need change our bodies, starve ourselves, or go to extreme measures to make up for the "bad" foods eaten during the Holidays. Research shows that 95% of diets do not work in the long-term. And ironically, chronic dieting is one of the biggest predicators of weight gain. Overindulging from time to time is part of an overall healthy diet. We all do it. No one is perfect. Bottom line: there is never a time in life no matter what you have eaten or drank that your body does not need adequate fuel.

With the start of 2019, I encourage you to stop thinking about your diet as a rigid plan, and to focus less on which foods you are going to restrict or avoid in the new year. I challenge you to think about how foods and behaviors make you feel both physically and mentally (digestion, mood, energy, etc.) and to focus on incorporating more of what makes you feel your best. Below are some ideas for ways to reset without falling into the dieting/detox trap, which can ultimately lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and poor health outcomes.

  1. Meal planning/prepping. If you feel a little out of sorts from traveling, Holiday parties, etc, focus on returning to your usual eating habits. For me, this means planning a couple meals/snacks at the beginning of the week and having homemade food on hand to eat throughout the week. Focus on eating a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods.

  2. Increase fiber intake! Include more fiber rich vegetables and fruit at meals - this could be as simple a handful of spinach in smoothies or some peppers and onion in an egg scramble.

  3. Up your hydration game. Dehydration can contribute to low energy levels, brain fog, headaches and GI disturbances. Pick up a new water bottle and carry it around with you to promote adequate hydration.

  4. Get moving. You don't have to do an hour long spin class to reap the benefits of exercise. Get out for a walk with a friend or zone out to music while you do some cleaning to get those endorphins pumping.

  5. Focus on Satisfaction. If you're craving fresh crunchy veggies in a big salad, awesome! If you're not in the mood to eat a salad, that's cool too! Don't force yourself to eat something because you think it's what you "should" be eating. Choose foods that sound good and that also nourish your body.

**These are very broad and basic tips for a gentle reset. There is no one sized fits all plan and I wholeheartedly believe in an individualized approach to nutrition. Reach out below to learn more about my one-on-one nutrition counseling services.

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Tips for Navigating a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

Tips for Navigating a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed this Holiday season when it comes to health and wellness, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It IS possible to strike a balance between feeling good, maintaining health promoting behaviors, and fully enjoying this time of year. Check out my top tips for navigating a healthy and happy Holiday season!

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Fuel for Fitness: What to eat before and after a workout

Fuel for Fitness: What to eat before and after a workout

Too often I see clients working out hard in the gym, and then sabotaging their efforts with poor nutrition. Nutrition is important for everybody, but particularly for individuals who demand more of their body systems through exercise. Common questions I get from clients include “what do I eat before and after a workout?” and “does the timing of meals and snacks really matter?”. Let’s answer these questions!

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Chronic Inflammation: Ten Tips for Reducing Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation: Ten Tips for Reducing Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around left and right - but what does it actually mean? Why should you care? Let’s break it down!

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My thoughts on New Year's resolutions, diets and detoxes + tips for a gentle reset

My thoughts on New Year's resolutions, diets and detoxes + tips for a gentle reset

   

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