The old saying goes You Are What You Eat, so why not make sure that what we eat is not only tasty, but is also going to work hard for us and help us to be the best we can be.
Food is not just for energy but by eating a nutrient dense diet, we provide our immune system with the tools to keep us well. It’s the time of year to concentrate on building up endurance and strength work. This will tax your immune system so let’s look at some simple ways to get your immune system on track and keep you training, not sniffing, coughing or taking to your bed.
You may need to find out if you have a food intolerance as this can affect your immune system. Many regular runners and top class athletes have transformed their health by identifying these temporary culprits which can cause illness and poor health.
Vitamin D is in short supply at this time of year, as sunlight is the best source. It is crucial for a well performing immune system and Public Health England advises that everyone in the UK should supplement at this time of year. Oily fish is a good source as are egg yolks, and cod liver oil.
Avoid highly processed sugary cereals. To ensure good levels of B vitamins for energy and slow releasing carbohydrates aim to choose, oats, quinoa, shredded wheat, berries, bananas with yogurt, seeds, or scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal bread, to give you balanced energy and support your immune system.
Replace sugary snacks with healthier options such as, oat cakes with peanut butter or almond butter, or go for natural yogurt adding some seeds/dried fruit. Home-made flapjack, or dates with nuts, rice cakes with nut spread, snack bars which are sweetened with fruit will all boost your immune system not deplete it.
A low protein diet is associated with significant impairment of the immune system so ensure you get protein at each meal and whenever possible aim to buy ‘grass fed meat’, wild fish, eggs, beans, legumes, or if you follow a vegan diet look at quorn, tempeh, soya, nuts and seeds for the healthiest option.
For a good immune system aim to eat fresh foods, think ‘rainbow’ for vegetables. Look at eating 4-6 different vegetables a day two of those being fruit. Increasing your diversity will help power your immune system.
For sustained energy, and those important B Vitamins use wholegrain rice, quinoa, wild rice, couscous, buckwheat, many of these grains are available as pasta and are nutrient dense to support the immune system and energy for those long runs/bike rides.
Scientific studies show that adding fermented products to your diet will boost your immune system. Aim to include live natural yogurts, or kefir, make sure the kefir is not high in sugar, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, to super charge your defences.
Tip of the month: Add Maca to your diet: Maca is a super-food – it’s a cruciferous vegetable from Peru. It can be bought as a powder and you can add it to soups, homemade flap jacks or smoothies. Start with 1-2 tsps, but can build up to 1-2 tbs. It will benefit your energy levels, your endurance and your recovery and is easily available on the high street.
Sheila Illingworth BSc (Hons) Dip I.O.N. mBANT mCNHC is a registered Nutritionist, based in North Yorkshire.
If you would like a consultation with Sheila she can be contacted on 07947 716679 or you can email her on firstname.lastname@example.org