Worldwide the most common statement of thankfulness is to be thankful for good health. We know to exercise and eat right but those terms when you delve into them are quite subjective from one person to another. If I could give you some simple tips for healthy living it would be the following: Limit simple sugar, eat foods rich in antioxidants, magnesium and vitamin D and try to eat at least one pro or pre biotic daily.
First discovered in the 1970’s and made famous by Linus Pauling is the ability of sugar to affect white blood cells. Sugar decreases the ability of the white blood cell to fight off bacteria and viruses by up to 75% from fifteen minutes post consumption to nearly five hours later. It also decreases any new antibodies from being produced within the same time period. In addition, sugar, in the form of glucose, is chemically so similar to vitamin C that they compete at the cellular level for absorption. This means that if you eat a meal or snack high in sugar that sugar will be absorbed into the cell in place of vitamin C. Inflammation is also increased in the presence of high sugars. The inflammatory response accelerates aging and contributes to a variety of diseases like heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Disease prevention begins with eating a diet low in sugar and rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants like vitamin A and beta carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C as well as minerals like selenium and zinc are essential for your immune system. Antioxidants protect our body from cellular damage that allows disease and aging to occur. Vitamin A helps the absorption of vitamin C, D, E, zinc and some B-vitamins. Vitamin E protects other fat soluble vitamins and the cell membrane. It enhances the absorption of vitamin A and regenerates vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for resistance to infections and it also enhances the absorption of calcium, magnesium and iron. Selenium and zinc are both needed to repair other antioxidants and when deficient, increase the duration and strength of a viral attack.
Magnesium is also important in relation to immunity and cellular health. It is crucial for the growth of white blood cells and decreasing the level of cell damaging free radicals in the body. When magnesium levels are low then the white blood cells are lowered resulting in a deficiency of one’s non-specific immunity. Inflammation can occur with a low magnesium diet due to the buildup of free radicals. A number of antioxidants need magnesium to optimally function.
It’s impossible to ignore how intertwined these nutrients are and how necessary a well-balanced diet is. All fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, but for vitamin A, seek out those that are yellow and orange like squashes. Vitamin E is found in wheat germ and in dark leafy greens and selenium and zinc are found in meats, seafood, legumes and nuts. Magnesium is found in beans and grains and dark leafy greens but also in some fruit and nuts.
In addition to antioxidants and magnesium, many other micronutrients modulate immune function including Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very hard to get in a standard diet. Eating vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) fortified foods, wild caught cold water fish and cold water fish oil supplements are your best sources in addition to getting some sunlight daily. Some foods that do have moderate sources of vitamin D in them include mushrooms and eggs.
When the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems benefit as well. Intestinal flora contribute to the production of myriad vitamins, decrease inflammation, stimulate the maturation of normal immune cells and contribute to a number of other functions as well. To ensure you have healthy intestinal flora you’ll want to incorporate prebiotic and probiotic foods into your diet. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria and include foods like onions, garlic and leeks, dark leafy greens, oatmeal, tomatoes, bananas, grade B maple syrup, whole grains and beans. Probiotics contain bacteria and include yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and other fermented foods.
Go outside for your next snack and enjoy a few minutes of sun while you munch on yogurt (a probiotic) with some fresh mango (rich in vit. C) and a sliced banana (high in magnesium) drizzled with a tablespoon of real maple syrup ( both the banana and the maple syrup are prebiotics). It’s not only yummy it will keep you healthy and smiling.