Your diet’s improved, you exercise regularly and have learned that what you eat has a connection to your overall health. But did you know that there are particular foods that weaken your immunity?
Sugar is sweet, and if you're like me, you consume a lot of it. Every child, woman and man in the United States of American consumes about 75 pounds of traditional sugar a year. That’s about 24 teaspoons a day. We also consume an additional 2% of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup found in everything from soda to ketchup. Apart from corroding your brain and your teeth, high levels of blood sugar has been shown to reduce the ability of white blood-cells (your body’s germ fighters) to kill off viruses and bacteria.
The Fix: The USDA recommends staying under the 10 teaspoons or about 40 grams of added sugar limit per day. If you’ve already had your 16-ounce Starbucks vanilla latte this morning, you’ve already hit your daily ration! With flu season kicking into gear, now’s a great time to work on reducing how much refined and processed foods you eat. That means candy, soda and most packaged foods which typically contain sugar in one form or the other. Look for foods high in fiber like lentils and chickpeas. These foods will help stabilize sugar levels and keep your immune system in good shape.
Fat is not inherently bad for you and should be a part of your diet. A balanced diet that optimizes the quantity and quality of your food is a healthy choice. Dietary choices of high-fat foods can slow your immune response by suppressing your immune response.
The Fix: Lean meat and ground beef contains about 90% less fat. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove skin from poultry to cut fat and calories. For variety, add choices like seafood as your main fat and protein source twice a week. According to the NIH, the following are the recommended intake values*:
Wait! This is not suggesting you completely stop drinking alcohol. In fact, a study recently published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia’s states that consuming small amounts of alcohol may actually help improve memory performance. However, when consumed in excess, alcohol can weaken your immunity and increase likelihood of certain diseases. Alcohol also affects the heart, liver and pancreas.
The Fix: Consuming a moderate amount of alcohol can help keep adults from developing conditions such as coronary heart disease or liver damage. Remember not to consume alcohol on an empty stomach. Other than reducing the likelihood of a massive hangover or acid attack, drinking in moderation reduces the effects of alcohol on your body’s immune system.
Red meat is a major source of saturated fats. Unfortunately, these fats may increase inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a common way our bodies react to harmful substances, disease and injury.
The Fix: Substituting out red meat for other sources of protein like oily fish (salmon, halibut or mackerel) can provide important omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3s have great value because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
White flour, rice and enriched pasta are refined grains, meaning they contain few nutrients and little fiber. Whole grains on the other hand are full of nutrients and fiber, making for a more balanced food choice.
The Fix: Reducing or eliminating refined grains from your diet and replacing them with whole grains strengthens your immunity. Stock up on nutritious options like barley, wild rice, brown rice and air-popped popcorn.