We’re kicking off a series of regular contributions from our chefs with this fascinating article on the immune system from chef and nutritional consultant, Isabel Hood.  Over the coming days and weeks we’ll be publishing more articles, nutritious recipes and useful information from many of our lovely chefs to help you optimise your health and boost your immune system.

Read on for Isabel’s insights into how the immune system works and what we can all be doing to help it function as effectively as possible….

Build Your Personal Army

Made up of a network of cells, organs and fluids, your immune system is your personal army, your very own bodyguard which works tirelessly to keep you healthy and well, defending you against the millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and toxins with which you are bombarded every day.   Think of it as a security system consisting of a series of fortifications to repel enemies and would-be invaders.  Its task is to identify those things which naturally belong in the body and those which are foreign or otherwise harmful, and to neutralise or destroy these outsiders.  It gradually gets less effective as we age and becomes less able to mount a successful resistance against infections and other assaults from the outside world – and never have the endless challenges to our immune system been more obvious than in today’s global health crisis.

What depresses our immune system?   Stress, insufficient sleep and poor diet are the main culprits.   A single stressful situation in your day for instance can actually single-handedly suppress your immune function by a whopping 60%.   Getting less than 8 hours’ sleep on a regular basis can have the same effect.   And as to food, it is imperative to understand that 70% to 80% of the immune system is actually located in the gut so what we eat on a daily basis can hugely influence its performance and its overall health.

So let’s look at the immune system’s greatest enemies in the kitchen.   Which foods are important to avoid?

  • Additives
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame
  • Caffeine
  • Dairy products, particularly cheese
  • Preservatives
  • Saturated fat
  • Smoked food
  • Sugar
  • Unhealthy fats such as oils made from corn, palm, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower, as well as margarines and polyunsaturated spreads

And what foods can offer support to a beleaguered immune system?   Fruit and vegetables of course, and the more brightly and intensely coloured the better!   Make sure you eat a wide variety on a daily basis and forget about five portions a day, that is nowhere near enough, aim for at least ten.   Furthermore, some foods are more powerful and nutrient-dense than others and are well worth including in your diet as often as possible:-

  • The PURPLES like berries, pomegranates and red cabbage
  • The ORANGES and YELLOWS like apricots, mangoes, papayas, sweet potatoes and pumpkin or butternut squash
  • The GREENS like algae such as spirulina and chlorella, French beans, salad leaves, green tea, parsley, watercress and sea vegetables
  • The REDS like apples and red peppers
  • The BRASSICAS like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
  • And the NONDESCRIPTS like garlic, mushrooms, quinoa, protein (particularly plant-based) and Omega-3 essential fatty acids in the form of oily fish, nuts and seeds – they may not be particularly eye-catching but they pack a real punch!

What about lifestyle?  Can it support the immune system?   The answer is yes.  So get plenty of

  • Exercise
  • Sunlight and Vitamin D
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • And ensure that you manage your stress levels effectively

 

ISABEL HOOD

International Dynamic Ageing Expert and Nutritional Consultant

International Nutritional Chef and Plant-Powered Chef

www.isabelhoodnutrition.com

 

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