A Nutritionist’s Best Tips for Jumpstarting Your Immune System
It’s the winter blahs. You’re tired, rundown, and longing for spring. But will you be ready when it arrives? You can be, if you start now.
Nutritionist and wellness coach Angela Martindale has a few tips to help you shake off winter, fire up your metabolism, and reboot your immune system. It’s National Nutrition Month, and as Martindale puts it, “the perfect time to start prepping the 60 trillion cells in your body for a new season.”
She offers these 5 nutrition tips to help you jumpstart your spring.
1. Snack on Chia Seeds
“Chia seeds pack a powerful immune-boosting punch, all while being one of the best foods for weight loss and muscle repair that you can eat,” said Martindale. She explained that 2 tablespoons of chia seeds have 4.5 grams of pure plant protein (brain fuel and muscle/tissue boost), about 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (boosting heart and brain functionality) and around 11 grams of dietary fiber (for smooth digestive functionality).
According to Martindale, studies show that chia seeds contain:
- high vitamin C potency levels for a quick immunity boost and serve as an anti-inflammatory
- vital minerals and phytonutrients important to brain/heart/skin and bone health
- high levels of phosphorous, thiamin, and niacin, which are important for metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids for weight loss
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds will give you approximately: 138 calories, 17% of your daily calcium, 23% of your daily magnesium, 12% of your daily iron, 3% of your daily potassium, 40% of your daily fiber (10 g), and 9% (4.7 g) of your daily protein, all of which contribute to and optimize your immune-fighting ability
“Chia seeds expand up to 3 times their size when absorbing liquid, which can help you feel fuller for longer,” said Martindale. “They are best mixed in a pudding, with oats, in a protein shake or almond milk drink prior to consuming, which helps expand them before ingestion so they do not absorb liquid from your body.”
If you take blood thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cautions that chia seeds can affect the way they work. If you eat a lot of chia seeds and need these medications, talk to your doctor.
2. Get a Boost from Blackberries
Martindale recommends blackberries because they’re low in calories at approximately 66 calories per half cup. They’re also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, which is good news for the heart and arteries. They’re also a good source of fiber, at 8 grams per serving, which benefits the digestive system. And they’re rich in vitamin E, a key ingredient in fighting off disease and repairing and strengthening muscles.
“Blackberries can be added to your dark leafy greens for a small snack salad,” she said. They can also be eaten as is to curb your mid-day sweet tooth.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, berries have a lot of antioxidant power which can protect against inflammation and free radicals and help ease symptoms of arthritis.
3. Get Clean With Coconut Oil
“Coconut oil (unprocessed) contains anti-viral properties due to its medium-chain triglycerides, which contain lauric acid,” said Martindale. “Studies have shown that this type of acid (monolaurin) found in coconut oil fat dissolves (and eventually kills) specific viruses contained by a shell such as herpes simplux-1 (cold sores) and the measles virus. Coconut oil has also been shown to be an effective anti-bacterial agent for everything from skin care to treating certain types of candida (yeast). Bottom line, coconut oil contains heart-healthy fat, flavor, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties which make it a great natural immune-boosting weapon for a cleaner internal and external system.”
The NIH notes that coconut oil is high in fat, but is safe for most people if used in amounts commonly found in foods.
4. Score with Super Greens
Super greens range from algae-wheat grass and spinach to kale. Martindale recommends them because they’re packed with high potency phytonutrients, fiber, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and enzymes, which all assist with digestive functionality and cell optimization by helping oxidize cells, assisting the body in eliminating food toxins with binding fiber, and helping to balance metabolism.
“Super greens also keep our heart happy by lowering cholesterol, and assisting in the breakdown of protein in the body for more effective muscle and tissue repair, not to mention that they are packed with nitrates for a great energy boost before or after your workout,” she said. “Getting enough of these dark leafy bad boys will ensure that your body is ready to hit the ground running for all of the fun things you want to do in the upcoming season.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that green leafy vegetables may be one of the best foods for preventing cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease. The properties in leafy greens are especially helpful to people who have type 2 diabetes.
5. Win with Water
We need to hydrate, and there’s nothing better than water.
“Water is the key to making sure that our body stays healthy, our skin stays looking fresh, and disease stays as far away as possible,” said Martindale. “Good old H2O literally rinses out our cells, carrying with it all of the minute chemicals, free radicals, and other ‘junk’ that our body picks up through eating and breathing.”
About 64 ounces of water a day will help prevent digestive issues such as bloating and constipation, as well as kidney and bladder infections.
If you don’t like plain water, Martindale suggests using lemon, mint, cucumbers, and/or berries for a delicious and nutritious natural infusion.