The relationship between our diet and our immune system is well proven. “A healthy diet is essential to have a good defense system, the immune system,” he says Ana Millsbetter known as @anwellanutrition and wellness coach. “But not only diet influences, getting enough sleep, managing stress and doing moderate physical exercise are just as important factors.”
As Molinos explains, “the functioning of the immune system is influenced by the intake of certain beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats, and from functional foods such as probiotic bacterias”. According to this expert, “a balanced diet -based mostly on foods of vegetable origin that are not very processed-, as well as a regular consumption of probiotics, contribute to the proper functioning of the defenses.”
The effects of a bad diet
Can a poor diet make us sicker? As Molinos emphasizes, yes, “a poor diet together with other unhealthy habits can make us sick.” “Not only obesity and overweight, it has been shown that type II diabetes is closely related to diet and, more specifically, with the excessive consumption of added sugars. Food could influence 45% of diabetes cases”.
But not only diabetes, as this coach points out, “there are studies that confirm that between 40 and 55% of cardiovascular diseases they are related to the excessive consumption of saturated fats or salt and to the low consumption of fruits, vegetables and unrefined cereals”.
And there is more. “Dental cavities, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, depression, eating disorders, and even some types of cancer can also be attributed to inadequate nutritionspecifically, between 30 and 40% of some types of cancer, such as stomach and colon cancer”, adds Molinos.
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Foods that raise the defenses
Ana Molinos recommends some foods or dishes that will help you raise your defenses, especially now that it’s cold:
– miso soup. Miso soup contains probiotic substances that will promote a good bacterial flora in the intestines.
– Garlic. Contains antibacterial substances that fight germs and toxins. Garlic improves the activity of white blood cells and T cells.
– Sufficient vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and calories. Given the lack of nutrients and/or calories, our immune system will suffer. For this reason, a diet rich in cereals, vegetables, legumes is recommended… and make sure that the amount of calories is not too low.
– Water. Goes to allow having an organism free of toxins, because we need water to eliminate them. As a general rule, it would be advisable to drink between 6 and 8 glasses a day. Its consumption will also depend on the weather, the activity or physical exercise that we carry out and the type of food that we eat.
– fermented foods. The live bacteria they contain are a source of probiotics, which help us promote the proper growth of the bacterial flora, producing beneficial effects not only on the digestive and immune systems and on the rest of the body. In this group is yogurt, cheese and new products that are being introduced into our diet such as kefir, which I love to add to my shakes.
– Foods rich in vitamins AB and E. In red foods, green vegetables and other products, such as carrots and pumpkins, we can find vitamin A, a component that helps improve our skin’s immunity. On the other hand, B (B1, B2, B5 and B12), which serves to increase our defenses, is more present in legumes and cereals, as well as in dairy products or in certain fish. An effect that is also produced by vitamin E, which we can find, for example, in olive oil or nuts.
– citrus. Fruits such as lemon or orange, as well as green leafy vegetables such as spinach, are rich in Vitamin C. This helps increase and strengthen defenses, as well as relieve symptoms in the event that we have already contracted a flu or cold
– ginger. In addition to helping the digestive and circulatory systems, ginger also fights harmful viruses and bacteriasince it is rich in nutrients such as potassium, niacin and vitamin C, in addition to having expectorant, antitussive and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help us combat various symptoms of the flu or cold.
In each season are there specific foods that our body needs to keep its defenses high? As Molinos explains, “the best diet is one that is balanced and that is combined with a healthy lifestyle. Also, if we introduce certain seasonal foods (vegetables and fruits) that strengthen our defenses, we will be helping our immune system to defend itself against external agents that can weaken it.
Foods that lower defenses
If they are too present in your day to day, these foods can seriously damage your immune system. Molinos tells us:
– The sugar. We know from scientific experiments that the ingestion of sugar leads to a reduction in the activity of the immune system. The effect can last several hours in which viruses, bacteria and other pathogens can do their thing.
– Alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to a lack of nutrients, prevents white blood cells from multiplying and macrophages from carrying out their activity.
– Foods to which you are allergic or intolerant. They can be foods with gluten, soy, nuts, lactose… different in each case. The consumption of foods to which you are allergic forces the immune system to fight against the allergen, thinking that it is a foreign substance, subtracting energy from it to fight against other agents such as viruses and bacteria.
– Chemical additives and preservatives. An example of this type of substance is E-102 or tartrazine, a food coloring that can cause allergic reactions and is related to hyperactivity syndrome in children.