Improve Immunity with better supermarket choices

Enlight of the Coronavirus, I thought I would share some nutrition tips of what to actually fill your trolley with. While toilet paper and soap/ hand sanitizer are important, you need to be asking yourself a few questions. How healthy am I now? What can I start doing to prepare myself & immune system for a possible infection of any flu or cold going around and what foods to have at home if I do get sick? Let's get started with these 11 things....

1. The basics....Best to avoid all processed (highly manufactured) and refined foods. Particularly those high in sugars including sugary drinks. So don't stack your trolley with biscuits, muffins, lollies, chips, refined chocolate, processed meats, white pasta, pre made pasta meals, 2min noodles, some cereals, muesli bars, sodas, white crackers etc. Now is the best time to avoid all of these and start or continue your healthy eating. Furthermore, these are not going to help your body recovery and may cause detriment to your immune system in the first place. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, roast chickpeas, fruit, bliss balls, vege sticks, hummus, cheese, wholegrain crackers and make your own healthy treats/ baking (cost effective too!). 
Ditch the alcohol too if its coming in too regularly or in large quantities. This only adds stress to the body and are calorie laden and nutrient deficient. 

2. Load your meals and snacks with vegetables and fresh or frozen fruit. If you aren't getting your 7+ a day of fruit and vege, a good time to start (5 handfuls of vege and 2x fruit). Vegetables, especially leafy greens and cruciferous like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, will give you a good range of immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C and  sulforaphane. Anti oxidants are needed to fight and prevent free radicals damage to the cells (free radicals are reactive molecules, either made in the body from metabolism or from the outside environment).   Boosting vege intake means increasing fiber intake,- important to help remove wastes and promote healthy gut bacteria flourish, which is also hugely important to your immune system (90% of immune system comes from your gut so important to take steps to keep that healthy! So make sure you stock up on fresh or frozen veges as these are a great boost to any dish with extra vitamins (especially if you are sick and don't feel like cooking and frozen are easy to microwave). Remember to eat raw or lightly steam rather than boiling! 

3. Add onion, NZ grown garlic, ginger and turmeric to many dishes. They all contain many active compounds that are well known for health and treating colds/ flus. Another reason to cook at home rather than rely on takeaways. Although you need to have them in slightly higher quantities if unwell to get more benefits. Turmeric and its active compound curcumin is best absorbed with black pepper and with healthy fats like olive oil.

4. Foods high in zinc. This is a hugely important mineral to enhance the immune system and has over 300 roles in the body to do with repair and recovery and immune system function. Many people that skip meals, or don't eat well/ a balanced diet, can be deficient, particularly the young or elderly. 
Some good zinc sources include red meat (don't need to over do this...2xpw is fine), poultry, shellfish- particularly oysters, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts) and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, hemp), eggs, cacao/ cocoa, dairy, legumes like chickpeas/ lentils (however, chickpeas/pulses also contain phytates. Phytates are anti-nutrients that inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals, meaning zinc from legumes isn’t as well absorbed as the zinc from animal products.). Supplementation for vegans may be recommended. Nevertheless tins of chickpeas/ lentils, nuts and seeds is still great to have in your 'stockpile kit'

5. Aim for more herbal teas than caffeinated drinks.  Coffee and black tea have diuretic effects, meaning you will excrete more water from the body and increase risk of dehydration or inadequate hydration. Also best to avoid tea and coffee with meals as the tannins prevent the update of iron, so enjoy these away from foods (i.e. 1 hour after breakfast), otherwise iron deficiencies can occur. Iron is also important for immune system as helps carry oxygen around the body. 
Include green tea in your supermarket trolley and daily routine. Green tea is known for its powerful anti oxidant properties, rich in polyphenols and catechins that have anti inflammatory effects. It still has small amounts of caffeine in it, so if you love the perk this a great substitution. Pop a good wedge of lemon or orange for extra Vitamin C and you will be on your way to boosting recovery. 

6. Dried foods are good for storing but go for wholemeal varieties in rice, pasta or flour. White flour products just cause sugar spikes and have less fiber and nutrients than wholemeal varieties. Again the less processed the better. Even try the bean/ lentil pasta or quinoa as these are high in protein so you wont need to add any meat (very cost effective!). Just a jar or tin of tomatoes plus some extra frozen vege for a very cheap but healthy meal. Wholemeal flour and rolled oats are great for healthy baking!

7. Healthy fats- particularly omega 3, can help with or reduce likelihood of stress related conditions such as depression and anxiety but also has a positive relationship helping immune inflammatory conditions, hormonal health, brain health and more, so definitely worth making sure you have foods that contain omega 3s and getting them on a weekly, if not daily basis. These include tuna, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed/ linseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, These are all great as many of them can be stored in the pantry for long periods of time (just keep nuts/ seeds in airtight containers). Also any grounded nuts/ seeds like LSA or flaxseed oil need to be stored in fridge once opened to prevent them going rancid. Olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which are good to include too.

8. Bone broth. Either home made or store bought. Bone broth is like a nutrient dense soup stocked fill of zinc, protein, glutamine, chromium and more. You can use this as a base for soups too. Brilliant to have if you are sick as many a time we can lose our appetite and so having either frozen or freeze dried powdered form can be very useful in keeping meals light for body to digest, yet nutritious to help in recovery. Just add some extra steamed veges in your bowl.

9. Supplements. These can be very beneficial is you have dietary restrictions or find it difficult to get a balanced diet. Quality supplements I can recommend for immune health is zinc, omega 3s, olive leaf, echinacea, Vitamin C, B vitamin complex. Speak to your health professional first before taking supplements or choosing the right one for you.

10. SLEEP is imperative to a healthy immune system. Sleep is one of our most important life basics after breathing. If you aren't getting 7 hours of quality sleep per night (bar the fact you might be a parent and have kids waking you up), make it a priority. Get to bed earlier, avoid caffeine late in the day, avoid screen time or rushing around last minute before going to bed.

11. Movement. If you have read this while sitting down then stand up and get moving.
Evidence shows it's not just physical activity and exercise that boosts immune system but MORE of a factor was time sitting during the day and how many breaks from sitting you had. 
Sitting time and metabolic health are associated.

This has a greater impact on your health than exercise alone!  So get moving taking regular breaks, use a stand up desk, have stand up meetings, use the stairs, stand up to make calls etc. Furthermore, research into sitting show that it affects hormonal health, nutrient absorption, bowel function, inflammation and can cause low bone density. So make 'snacktivity' apart of your daily routine not just going for one bout of exercise. Take a moment to think about how much sitting you do per day? 

So if you have fallen off the bandwagon with your health and need to get yourself back on track, START NOW! No better time. If you are stockpiling food, then make sure you have the above in your stash to keep yourself healthy in isolation rather than just living off dried pasta. 

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