Here’s how it usually goes…
Your toddler gets sick. You spend a few days taking care of said toddler and watching way too much Paw Patrol.
Your husband gets sick. You spend a week caring for him. While also solo parenting your toddler. And solo cooking, solo grocery shopping, and solo cleaning.
A week goes by. You think you’re in the clear, and then… bam! The sore throat starts. Damn. Maybe you’re just imagining it? Then come the aches and the nasal congestion. Double damn. You know what’s coming next.
But this time you’re determined. As of this morning, your toddler is whinier than usual, and is starting to feel a little warm to the touch. But that half marathon you’ve been training for is in less than a month!
It’s time to break the cycle. Here are your options:
1. Move out for the month. Rent a cozy one-bedroom cabin deep in the forest where no one but the birds can find you. Imagine breathing in that fresh forest smell when you open the door in the morning. The owls and the crickets singing you to sleep at night. The peace. The quiet… Okay, okay, back to reality.
2. Buy every supplement the local health food store has stocked on its shelves. Then figure out how you’re going to pay your mortgage this month after all the money you spent on them. Then spend the rest of the week researching which supplements are made with quality ingredients and come from trustworthy companies.
3. Step up your healthy eating game. Start eating more of the everyday foods that are proven to boost immunity. Foods like mushrooms, kale, nutritional yeast, acai, coconut yogurt, chlorella, kiwi, and broccoli.
Does Option 3 seem like the winner to you? Yeah, me too. Though Option 1 still has a certain appeal, don't you think?
There are foods that are scientifically proven to decrease your chances of getting sick. If you do get sick, these immune-boosting foods also decrease how long you are sick and the severity of your symptoms.
Which foods increase immunity?
Fruits and Veggies
Mushrooms increase Secretory Immunoglobin A (sIGA) in the body. sIGA increases your body’s immunity to viruses like the common cold and flu.
We’re not talking expensive medicinal mushrooms, either. In one study, eating ¾ cup of white button mushrooms per day was enough to strengthen the immune system.
So the next time your toddler starts to sniffle, add some mushrooms to your post-run meal.
I know, I know you've heard it all before. Kale is good for you. "Kale yeah!" ...But with good reason.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, Kale stimulates the immune system. This is exactly what you need when you're trying to avoid that virus that has been spreading through your toddler’s daycare.
When you start to feel that itch of a sore throat, you may reach for an orange as a quick boost of vitamin C. But did you know that kiwifruit has nearly double the vitamin C of an orange?
If you do happen to catch a cold, studies show that eating 4 kiwifruits per day decreases how long you are sick. It also decreases the severity of head congestion and sore throat.
Broccoli is an immune boosting food that does its job through the gut. Your gut holds sixty to seventy percent of your body’s immune cells. It’s not a body part to be ignored when you’re looking for ways to boost the immune system.
Broccoli improves the intestine’s immune function. Eat just a cup of broccoli, and you also provide your body with as much vitamin C as an orange.
In a study, researchers watched as white blood cells in a petri dish gobbled up intruding cells. When the same white blood cells are sprinkled with acai powder, they devour the invading cells even faster.
How could this translate to your own body? It could mean the virus never has a chance to grow and spread enough for you to even realize it’s in your body. If you’re sick, it means the acai helps your white blood cells fight these viruses more quickly. Translation: You are healthy sooner and can get back to LIFE!
6. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast, often lovingly referred to as “nooch”, gives a cheesy flavor to savory dishes. It’s used to make dairy-free versions of Mac N’ Cheese, Nacho cheese, or a parmesan sprinkle.
Nooch has a carbohydrate called beta-glucan, which is a real powerhouse when it comes to boosting your immune system. Beta-glucan is also found in barley, oats, reishi and shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, and algae.
In scientific studies, when participants are given beta-glucan (nutritional yeast) daily, they are less likely to catch the common cold. They also have less severe symptoms and get healthy quicker.
Nutritional yeast also has the benefit of being anti-inflammatory. So it not only keeps you healthy through the cold season, but also helps your muscle recovery for that half marathon training. Hmm… Vegan Mac N Cheese, anyone?
Athletes that undergo strenuous exercise have decreased salivary immunoglobulin a (sIGA). Translation? They have depressed immune systems. Translation? They’re more likely to get sick.
But, there's good news. Adding chlorella to an athlete's diet fights against this decreased sIGA. It helps to protect athletes from getting a cold and other viruses throughout their training season.
Chlorella is a freshwater algae that you can find in powder form at your local health food store.
Remember how 60 to 70% of your body's immune cells are in your gut? Taking probiotics provides your gut with more of the beneficial bacteria that keep you healthy. In studies, people that are given a daily probiotic are much less likely to catch the common cold.
Don't want to take another supplement? Probiotics are also found in everyday fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.
9. Fruits and Vegetables
I know you've heard it before, but it's true. Eat your fruits and veggies! They serve as prebiotics, or food, for all that good bacteria in your gut that keeps you healthy.
Studies also show that daily intake of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases your risk of getting sick. Pregnant women that eat 8.5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day are 40% less likely to get an upper respiratory infection.
How are you supposed to eat all of these foods in one day? It’s actually easier than you may think to live a normal life, maintain a normal diet, and strengthen your immune system at the same time.
Below you’ll find a sample meal plan with immune boosting recipes the whole family will love.
Sample Immune Boosting Meal Plan:
Breakfast: Acai bowl with a serving of chlorella powder blended in
Check out my favorite Acai Bowl recipe here
Lunch: Cheezy Savory Oats topped with steamed broccoli and other favorite veggies. Served on a bed of kale.
If you’ve never had savory oats before, you’re in for a treat! Here’s what I do:
In a bowl, add ½ cup of rolled oats, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp of nutritional yeast, and about a cup of water.
Microwave for 2 minutes, then set aside with a plate on top of the bowl to allow the oats to set while you chop or steam your veggies.
Snack: Coconut yogurt topped with kiwi and any other fruit you have on hand
Dinner: This Wild Rice, Kale and Mushroom Soup
That’s it! You’ve hit all 9 of the immune boosting foods in one day. Stay healthy. Keep running!
Did you know that high cortisol levels can decrease your immunity? Check out this blog, with 10 Proven Ways to Decrease Cortisol.