In a world where health and wellness have taken center stage, we often hear about the importance of maintaining a robust immune system.
But what does it mean to have a strong immune system, and how can we achieve it? It’s time to debunk some common misconceptions and shed light on the crucial role of nutrition in building immunity. This includes unlearning and relearning healthier lifestyles and why it’s essential to eat for what you’re about to do, not for what you’ve done.
Immunity is our body’s ability to defend itself against harmful pathogens. This defense can be attributed to innate factors we are born with and acquired factors we develop over time. For instance, when our body encounters a disease, it acquires mechanisms to fight similar pathogens in the future or when one gets an immunization, the body gets exposed and has a memory to defend itself in the future.
On the other hand, nutrition is the fuel that keeps our bodies alive, active, and continuously developing the cells needed to fight off diseases and improve the immune system’s strength. A poor diet, such as one that leads to obesity or malnutrition can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to pathogens.
A strong immune system starts with a healthy gut. Incorporating bacteria from fermented foods, yogurt, fiber, and nutrient-rich refined carbohydrates can result in a robust immune response. It is important to note that our bodies are predisposed to diseases, but how well-prepared they are depends on what we feed them.
Additionally, key nutrients like Vitamins C, D, and Zinc are essential for a healthy immune system. However, these nutrients work best when consumed together, creating a strong defense against diseases.
To boost immunity, it’s essential to incorporate a variety of colorful foods into your diet. These colors represent different antioxidants and phytonutrients that combat free radicals. Edible oils, for instance, Fresh-Fri which is infused with ginger and garlic, can be beneficial for immunity. However, moderation is key when consuming oils and fats. They can be used to dress salads or pan-fry dishes but should not be used excessively.
While nutrition plays a critical role, it’s not the sole factor in maintaining optimal body function and a strong immune system. Adequate rest, quality sleep, regular exercise, and proper hydration are equally important.
As we age, our nutritional needs and immune responses change. It’s essential to adapt our habits to meet these changing requirements. For children, healthy nutrition habits set from a young age can become lifelong practices. For adults, it’s about making daily choices that promote a healthier lifestyle—a continuous process of unlearning and learning. For Instance, the timing of our meals is critical. Ideally, dinner should be consumed three hours before bedtime. This practice ensures better sleep quality, as heavy meals can lead to discomfort, underutilization of food, and weight issues.
To debunk some myths, a strong immune system is not brought about by consuming more but by consuming the right nutrients. For example, do not eat lots of oranges with a view that vitamin C is only exclusive to them. The vitamin is found in a variety of foods like spinach and capsicum. The concept of superfoods is also a misconception. A healthy immune system is the result of balanced nutrition, proper sleep, exercise, rest, and hydration. There is no one single meal that has a combination of all these factors.
With these insights, it is now time that you take charge of your health. Understanding what you put into your body is crucial because it will either thank you or you’ll pay the price. Be mindful of the decisions you make, as some of the healthiest options are also the most affordable. From sweet potatoes to spinach, chia seeds to eggs, and nuts to bananas, there’s a wealth of nutritious options at your disposal. Your health is your greatest asset, so invest in it wisely and watch your body thrive.
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Noreen Kigochi is a Resident Nutritionist with Pwani Oil Limited