Nutritional immunity – Facing off against the invisible opponent (Part 2)

As we know, nutritional deficiency can make it easier for organisms to invade the body.  Therefore, a well-balanced, consistent diet may be your best ammunition.  Here are some additional strategies for your nutritional arsenal:

Small Trades Can Yield Major Payoffs
Examples of small trades that may lead to the major reward of strengthened immunity include choosing:

–          vitamin-fortified meal replacement bar instead of a candy bar;

–          baked potato instead of French fries;

–          salad made with dark greens instead of iceberg lettuce; and/or

–          vegetable soup or a serving of tomato/marinara sauce with your meal.

Generally speaking, the darker a fruit or vegetable, the more rich its vitamin and mineral content.

And to Avoid:
* Refined sugar and excessive fats, which may make the immune system sluggish –  instead, rely on fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds; not only are they rich in fiber, but they also contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals;
* Large, infrequent meals – smaller, more frequent meals digest more efficiently; &
* Food monotony – rotating foods will increase the variety of vitamins and minerals, plus may help avoid food intolerances.

Also, nix the hydrogenated fats or margarine, and opt for more omega-3 essential fatty acids.  These “good fats” are found in flax and fish oil (try salmon, mackerel, and tuna).

The Mighty Multivitamin
Unfortunately, even the mightiest of meals may not provide the array of immune protection that a young athlete (or adult chauffeur) needs.  Many Americans’ diets still fall shy of US RDA guidelines, and we normally don’t consume as many fresh foods in the winter as we do during the warmer seasons.  It’s tough to find fruits and vegetables, especially during weekend travel.  One solution is to pay particular attention to those that are in season.

Also, a whole-foods-based multivitamin/multimineral may help make up the difference.  While it won’t replace whole foods, you may be able to compensate for short-term deficiencies.  Compare labels to see that you’re getting enough antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta carotene, and selenium.  Check that you’re purchasing one free of dyes, preservatives, and other unnecessary additives.  Finally, pay particular attention to wheat, corn, soy, and dairy, which may cause problems in sensitive people.

Besides the extra insurance that a multivitamin may provide, backing it up with a good night’s sleep can also key to replenish energy stores.

Germophobes Unite!
Next, maintaining a strong, healthy body isn’t just about what you’re getting;  it’s also about what you’re not getting…germs from areas other than foods:

* Wash your hands frequently and properly (for at least 20 seconds), since cold viruses can live for several hours on the hands, tissues, or hard surfaces;
* Use antibacterial products (moderately); &
* Disinfect your gear  – remember, locker room germs make unwelcome dinner guests!

Finally, be a good teammate:  if you’re severely ill, don’t risk wiping out next week’s roster with this weekend’s illness.  At the risk of shortening your team’s bench, no one welcomes a player who’s low in energy and highly contagious.

Remember, a worn-out body is a doormat for germs seeking a warm place for the winter, so avoid becoming a “hotel” for these unwelcome guests!  To lessen your odds, think of The Three Rs:  replenish, restore, and rest.  Even if you can’t keep illness completely at bay, you may be able to lessen the intensity of symptoms with proper nutrition and preventative measures.

Have a specific question, comment, or suggestion for a future article?  Contact Jodi Sheakley at jodi@nutrivitawellness.com.

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