Eat your way to stronger immunity
When it comes to our health, we have two distinct options – a proactive or a reactive approach.
The difference between the two is often contextualised as the ‘farmacy’ versus the pharmacy approach, because wholesome nutrition is vital to a strong and optimally functioning immune system that can help to both prevent and cure infections.
Based on available scientific evidence, it’s fair to state that those who choose to follow a poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle that is devoid of exercise are more susceptible to colds and flu infections.
Prevention better than cure
And while a holistic lifestyle that combines a nutritious diet, regular exercise and beneficial supplements won’t necessarily guarantee an infection-free winter, it will certainly reduce your risk.
And, as the popular idiom from Dutch Renaissance theologian Desiderius Erasmus states, prevention is better than cure.
That’s why Dis-Chem strives to combine both approaches, providing customers with a range of health foods and supplements that empower us to take a proactive and preventative approach to our immunity, with modern medicines available from the pharmacy when we need to take a curative approach.
The holistic approach
Our diet should sit at the heart of our quest for optimal health and enhanced resilience against disease, with exercise used to fortify our efforts and supplements incorporated for auxiliary support.
“Boosted immunity comes from a variety of different areas, including how you manage stress, how often you exercise and what you eat. However, your immune strength is dependent on an optimal intake and supply of vitamins and minerals and other immune-boosting nutrients, which you should primarily get from the food you eat.”
“As such, most nutritional experts would agree that a proper diet can be the best weapon for warding off infections and illness. Likewise, a poor diet will increase our susceptibility to illness.”
The nutrition factor
Natural foods such as vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy contain beneficial substances such as phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre and protein, which your digestive system assimilates to nourish the body.
There nutrient-dense foods are also packed with antioxidants, which can help boost immunity and fight off colds and flu. Antioxidants work to reduce cell damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, which is heightened during periods of increased inflammation, like during an infection.
The most important antioxidants for this purpose include beta-carotene and other carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Zinc and selenium are also important micronutrients in the fight against winter infections because your immune system and its many infection-fighting cells need these substances to function properly.
You can find zinc in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals and dairy products, while selenium is found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry fortified breads and other grain products.
Other beneficial foods include garlic with its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties; ginger, which can help to alleviate indigestion and manage inflammation; and turmeric, which contains potent antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Furthermore, including more fermented foods in your diet also helps to prevent illness by repopulating the gut and colon with ‘good’ bacteria, which is the first line of defense against many diseases and infections (read more about the gut’s role in immunity on page XX).
To boost your immune system with a wholesome and nutritions diet, check these guidelines:
- Load up on fruit and vegetables: Go for colour and get creative. Make sure each meal contains both fruit and vegetables.
- Have a clove or two of garlic a day: This is a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
- Eat sufficient protein: Aim for lean meats like fish, game, quinoa, eggs and pulses, combined with grains, dairy or tofu.
- Include herbs and spices that contain immune-supporting nutrients: Experiment with turmeric, ginger, watercress and lemon juice.
- Avoid or limit sugar: It can suppress the immune system.
- Bring the heat: Hot foods such as chili peppers, hot mustard, radishes, pepper, onions and garlic contain substances called mucolytics (similar to over-the-counter expectorant cough syrups) that liquefies the thick mucus that accumulates in the sinuses and breathing passages.