As we all strive to get a little healthier, it can sometimes be a little frustrating knowing here to start. This will of course also depend on where you currently are nutritionally, and to where you wish to progress.

A good place to start in making improvements is with the basics – “10 Tips to a Healthy Happier You” in case any of these are areas that you might like to work on.

Keeping a Health Journal is very insightful, and you can work on making a few small changes every week, which soon become a natural part of your routine. My approach is a practical, realistic one – I appreciate that we all lead busy lives and can’t spend so much time in the kitchen, nor can most of us afford the latest obscure ‘superfood’.

Everyday foods in nature provide most of us with the basic nutrition that we need. Enjoy foods raw and cooked as both provide benefits; as always there are exceptions when one is preferred over the other. Also, nutrients help each other in their absorption (e.g. vitamin C with iron), so the more mixed and colourful your plate, the better!

Assuming you’ve embraced a wholesome, clean, no-sugar, additive-free diet, then here are some specific food sources you can incorporate on a regular basis to help build up your immunity.

Note: If you are struggling to give up sugar, or don’t know how to replace certain food items you currently enjoy that aren’t so ‘clean’ – then feel free to ask in the comment section below, or pm me.

The foods listed here are rich in minerals and vitamins which all are required for a strong immunity, along with phytonutrients. These are common compounds across plant foods that have health-promoting characteristics – e.g. as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, carminatives (relax the digestive tract for example), anti-carcinogens etc.

Examples of immune building phytonutrients are:

  • carotenes give plants their orange colour and are anti-oxidants preventing damage from free radicals (toxins and stresses that we are exposed to)
  • glucosinolates are sulphur containing compounds known for their anti-cancer properties. These give a bitter flavour to vegetables such as garlic, onion and cruciferous vegetables. (note — the latter can impact iodine absorption, important for our thyroid, so take care not to over-consume these foods raw, if this is a concern)
  • flavonoids provide anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogen properties among others – they provide pigmentation to fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices

Hence, unless there are specific reasons to avoid certain foods, a wide variety, including a ‘rainbow’ of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices is recommended. I believe that first and foremost we must look to our food choices for nutrients, and then supplementation is a top-up option, and in some cases medically recommended to address a vitamin or mineral or deficiency.

A word of caution however – it is possible to reach toxic levels with minerals, and certain vitamins. For example, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s I was advised to take selenium 200mcg daily, as this has shown to help this auto-immune (and not necessarily iodine, although thyroid related). After a couple of months I was starting to feel a little down, thought my noticed I was losing some hair, so began to wonder if I had reached a toxic level. Sure enough, a blood test proved that this was the case – my usual 2 brazil nuts daily, along with salmon etc was providing more than enough selenium. So lesson learned – before taking supplements for nutrients that can reach toxic levels, do get a blood test done first.

OK – back to some general foods to include in your diet:

Leafy Greens

Consume these daily in a juice, salad or stir-fry

  • Based on their weight, these are richest in nutrients of any food
  • Contain vitamins A, C, magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid

Berries

Enjoy 4-5 times a week when in season

  • Rich in antioxidants (vitamins A,C,E, selenium) and phytonutrients
  • High in fiber, and minerals manganese, copper
  • Contain anti-inflammatory, anti-aging properties

Cruciferous Vegetables

Consume varied 3-4 times weekly

  • Contain carotenoids, vitamins C, E, K, folic acid, and minerals
  • Also have phytonutrients, glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds)
  • The protect body cells and are reported to inactivate carcinogens and inhibit tumours

Omega 3, DHA/EPA Essential Fats

Recommend 2-3 times weekly from oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, trout, tuna occasionally) and ‘topped up’ daily with nuts/seeds, leafy greens

  • Encourage cell growth & help rejuvenate
  • Help eliminate toxins and protect against inflammation
  • Enhance immunity
  • Improve mood & brain function and support brain development

There is a host of other healthy foods we should incorporate into our diet e.g.

  • avocados and olives for their heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats
  • beetroots to help cleanse our liver
  • chickpeas contain molybdenum to help rid of sulphites
  • cinnamon is a natural sweetener and helps control blood sugar levels
  • coconuts for their lauric acid and anti-bacterial properties
  • eggs for choline which contributes to a healthy liver
  • ginger to aid digestion….

but I feel this blog is long enough already! Congrats if you’ve read this far!

The last point is, that unless we have a healthy gut, or microbiome, the nutrients from our food will not be properly absorbed. Various factors contribute to a ‘leaky gut’, and many things help. Watch out for my next blog!

 

To our health!

Liza Rowan

Holistic Nutritionist

When not not busy in my favourite role as mother to my two boys,  I dedicate my time to educate, motivate and inspire us all to lead healthier, happier lives. This involves hosting Nutrition courses (in-class and online), corporate wellness talks, workshops and when I have time, private consultations.

 You can follow me on one or more of the following channels:

 

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