The World's Healthiest Foods

How to Help Avoid the Swine Flu and Seasonal Flu by Strengthening Your Immune System with the World's Healthiest Foods

While vaccinations have taken center stage as the primary step to preventing the flu, your everyday lifestyle habits can go a long way to help keep your immune system in optimal working order as flu vaccinations may reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of contracting disease. (Additionally, when it comes to the swine flu vaccine, there is currently no long-term evidence conclusively establishing its effectiveness.) A healthy lifestyle will allow you to interact with the world around you, enhancing your ability to remain healthy and prepare you for an outbreak.

The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you from the bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that cause infection, including seasonal flu, swine flu, and colds. Medical science has established that one of the most important factors in supporting a healthy, balanced immune system is good nutrition. Research over the past ten years has shown that nutrition plays a major role in supporting the production and action of both the cells and signaling molecules of the immune system. Eating health-promoting, nutrient-rich foods, such as the World's Healthiest Foods, provides the kind of nutrition that supports your immune functions to the fullest.

Your body uses a variety of responses to maintain its defense against harmful pathogenic organisms in the environment; therefore, it may not be surprising that nearly all of the vitamins are necessary to maintain and promote some aspect of your immune function. Minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein are also all keys to a healthy immune system.

A healthy immune system is therefore not separate from good health and the foods we eat can be one of the best ways to maintain optimal health. This means eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, and extra virgin olive oil. Including more fruits and vegetables into your daily menu is a must for a healthy immune system, so this is a particularly important time of year to try and eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eating more fruits and vegetable can help ward off microbial invasions because they contain immune boosting antioxidans and can help destroy viruses before they make you sick.

Phytonutrients and Antioxidants Concentrated in Fruits and Vegetables Promote Healthy Immune Function

In addition to containing a rich source of vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables contain immune-boosting antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrient bioflavonids such as anthocyanins, which protect us against free radicals that can cause damage to cellular structures as well as DNA.

The more colorful your meal, the greater likelihood you will receive a rich diversity of phytonutrients. These phytonutrients give carrots and winter squash their rich orange-red color; make beets, berries and red and purple grapes a brilliant red; and provide green leafy vegetables such as spinach with their deep green hue.

For a greater appreciation of phytonutrients in foods, it's interesting to think about what happens to leaves in the autumn. During the fall, leaves change in color from green to yellow or orange or red; these colors are actually in the leaves year-round, but just get overshadowed by the green. Therefore, when you eat a green leafy vegetable, you're actually eating a variety of colors-and the phytonutrients that are reflected in those hues!

Eating More Immune-Enhancing Foods

The collection of the nutrients you get from the health-promoting World's Healthiest Foods is one of its greatest benefits. For example, spinach is not only rich in vitamins A, C and B, along with minerals and fiber, but contains hundreds of antioxidants and phytonutrients. That being said, we can still highlight certain foods as immune-strengtheners by virtue of their being very concentrated sources of important immune-bolstering nutrients (realizing that in addition to the highlighted nutrient, it contains many more that promote optimal health). In the chart below you will find some of the nutrient-rich World's Healthiest Foods that can provide an extra boost towards building and supporting a strong immune system:

Health-Promoting Foods Concentrated Nutrient Nutrient Function and How the Foods Promote a Strong Immune System
Spinach, Swiss chard, carrots,yellow squash, broccoli,kale, apricots, cantaloupe Vitamin A, E and K Enhances the function of white blood cells; increases the response of antibodies to antigens; has anti-viral activity
Lemons, limes, citrus fruits, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage, romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe Vitamin C and other antioxidants Powerful antioxidant; reduces time and length of respiratory viral infections
Cauliflower, broccoli, collard greens, romaine lettuce, legumes/beans, asparagus, spinach, Swiss chard, fish, shellfish, lamb B-vitamins (folate, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12) Promotes the production and release of antibodies; ensures healthy immune cell function; deficiency impairs white blood cell functioning
Spinach, Swiss chard, shrimp,lamb,broccoli zinc, copper, manganese, iron Potent immunostimulant; deficiency can result in profound suppression of immune function
Onions, garlic Sulfur-containing and flavonoid phytonutrients Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties; kills germs
Shiitake mushrooms Lentian Enhances immune system function including strengthening its ability to fight infection
Olive oil Monounsaturated fats Promotes healthy gastrointestinal membrane essential for a healthy immune system
Sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds Omega-3 fatty acids Precursors to compounds that regulate immune system
Sardines,cod,salmon,shrimp,eggs Vitamin D Regulate immune system activity by preventing excessive or prolonged inflammatory response
Fish, shellfish,lamb, Brazil nuts Selenium Supports healing from inflammation and may be an immunostimulant
Fish, shellfish, lamb, legumes/beans Protein Source of immune-stimulating amino acids;deficiency can result in depletion of immune cells and the ability of the body to produce antibodies

A Sample Menu

This menu is representative of the foods that will help you build a strong immune system: fruits rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; large salad with a mixture of vegetables and a protein for lunch; two vegetables and fish rich in omega-3's and protein for dinner; nuts and seeds for snacks; and green tea as a beverage.

Breakfast:

Snack

Lunch:

Salad with 4 cups,romaine lettuce, kidney beans,tomatoes, red bell peppers, shredded carrots, and cucumbers topped with sardines or tuna dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper

Snack

Red grapes with walnuts or almonds

Dinner:

Traditional ways of cooking vegetables can destroy from 50-80% of nutrients. Don't overcook. Steaming and healhy sauté preserves most nutrients.

Enjoy a Cup of Tea and Stay Hydrated

The flu and cold season is a great time to enjoy a cup of green tea that will warm you from the inside out and help keep you stay hydrated. While drinking green tea is a cultural ritual of community in Asia, it is now becoming a cultural ritual of wellness in the West. This is because green tea consumption has been shown to have many health benefits that researchers believe are related to the phytonutrients that it contains. The catechins found in green tea have been shown to have many health-promoting qualities: they are powerful antioxidants, support healthy gastrointestinal tract function, support detoxification function, and support repair of damaged DNA.

In addition to green tea, it's important to drink adequate amounts of water to stay healthy. Remember not to wait until you are thirsty to drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated is important for healthy immune function.

What Not to Eat May Be Just as Important as What You Do Eat

While eating nutrient-rich foods, such as the World's Healthiest Foods, plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, avoiding foods that compromise your immune system by depleting your nutrient stores, and preparing your foods to preserve the most nutrients is also a must. Here are some tips of what to avoid to keep you healthy and your immune system strong:

Avoid:

Other Prevention Methods

We believe that good food safety practices can help ensure health in general and should always be practiced. This includes, but is not limited to, washing foods well, using separate cutting boards for animal foods and other foods, and cooking foods at temperatures necessary to kill microbes - 170 degrees Fahrenheit or 77 degrees Celsius for meat and poultry.

Good hygiene is always important in maintaining health:

A Healthy Lifestyle

All in all it probably comes as no surprise that the way to a strong and healthy immune system is through a healthy lifestyle composed of eating nutrient-rich, health-promoting like the World's Healthiest Foods, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, relaxation practices, and good hygiene. Good health, like all things, is a reflection of the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. A healthy lifestyle not only supports the immune system and helps prevent colds and flus, as well as chronic diseases, but also increases your energy level and positively affects your overall mental and physical sense of well-being. For up-to-date information on seasonal flu outbreaks, we suggest the following websites: