Immune Empowering Foods
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO.... Instead of resolving to “eat right” this year to lose weight, consider choosing a diet that’s right for your immune system. That’s right-your diet can have a profound impact on your immune system, energy levels, and how efficiently your body functions. The right diet can help your body reduce inflammation, cope with stress, survive cold and flu season, and be an important therapeutic for athletic training. Some of my patients swear that their everyday aches and pains seems to calm down when they stay away from white sugar and flour while others notice a reduction in allergy symptoms throughout the year. The following recommendations are based on the idea that the 1,000+ meals you eat each year can be a powerful form of preventative medicine giving your immune system the power to survive the winter!
1. Choose an Empowering Fat: Not only does good fat (fats high in omega-3 fatty acids) help keep you energized but they also play an important role in reducing inflammation. Try items like olive oil, flaxseeds, nuts, or avocados.
2. Eat Fish: Fish contain a high concentration of those good-old omega-3 fatty acids. Did your mother make you drink cold live oil? Well, she was onto something. Try cold water fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, cod) or a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement. Remember that not all fish oils are made equal. Choose one that tests for heavy metals (you will see the words molecularly distilled) and don’t settle for anything less.
3. Say No to Trans Fats: Limit or avoid foods made with vegetable shortening, margarine, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Trans Fats and hydrogenated oils are used to increase the shelf life of foods. However, because they are in a modified state they no longer function like a normal fatty acid and disrupt the normal cellular activities within the body. Most notably, they disrupt normal cellular metabolic processes and have been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
4. Eat Foods of Color: Your carbohydrate choices should look like a rainbow. Foods with heavy pigmentation contain all sorts of antioxidants that scavenge for free radicals in the body. Collard greens, blueberries, acorn squash are just a few examples.
5. Experiment with Cruciferous Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale: broccoli cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, radishes & brussel sprouts. These special vegetables contain immune regulating compounds as well as potent cancer-fighting compounds, which help detoxify carcinogens in the body and may prevent healthy cells from morphing into cancerous ones.
6. Be Complex: Complex carbohydrates in their least processed form are the best source of energy for your body. Try sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, and other whole grains in their original state.
7. Ditch the Sugar: Sugar, sweets, and anything made with white flour (bagels, croissants, and many types of bread) contain simple sugars causing your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. When your blood sugar drops down, your brain is hungry for more sugar! What’s worse than that-“I can’t function without 2 cookies, a bag of popcorn, and 2 slices of toast feeling?” Your cortisol levels rise along with your insulin levels mimicking a stress response in your body. Over a period of time, this weakens your immune system.
8. Protein that Packs a Punch: Try legumes (soybeans, tofu, lentils, different varieties of beans) free-range and organic chicken or turkey, or eggs.
9. Limit Other Proteins: Eat these foods in moderation or in their organic form only: dairy products, shellfish, beef, lamb, or pork.
10. Beverages Matter: Stay hydrated to optimize the efficiency of your cells. Limit or cut back on caffeine or alcohol consumption this winter. Need a boost in the morning? Believe the hype of green tea. Choose an organic form and sip away to reap the antioxidant benefits of green tea.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO Licensed Acupuncturist
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA. Jessica first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery.
She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Areas of specialty include women's health, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine.