Healthy Choice

Eat right. Feel Better.

By April Jones

It never fails that as the temperature shifts and school begins, so do the many colds and coughs that we and our children must endure. As we go from a season of longer days in the sunshine to one spent indoors, we are once again exposed to that which is constantly recycled in the air around us. A diet of fresh fruits ripened by summer’s kiss many times shifts to easily prepared, often pre-packaged or fast-food meals as we return to  busy fall schedules. Unfortunately, a weakened immune system if often the result.

Most of us never receive the same break our kids do from the tiny constraints of our offices and cubicles. Many times the germs we bring to the office are those we obtained from our children. Children have no choice but to be indoors for school, and we have no choice but to take them there. When they are surrounded by 20-30 other children in a room not much larger than a crayola box, it is inevitable they are going to come into contact with some germs. But there is a way to protect them — and your entire household.

One of the greatest defenses you can provide is that of a strong body nurtured and defended by healing foods, vitamins and herbs. Just like soldiers who prepare for battle before they come to the perimeters of the field, we must prepare our immune systems in advance for the onslaught of contagious viral infections. Often it is only a minor deficiency of various micronutrients that can affect the bodies’ ability to resist disease and infection.

We all know the importance of eating a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. I also want to reinforce the importance of providing yourself and your family with clean, living food throughout the day. It is so easy to throw in a lunchable or pre-packaged snack because of its ease. These foods are expensive but have only minimal vitamins and minerals. They are often loaded with high levels of sodium, which affect blood pressure, and large amounts of sugar (in particular “false sugars”), which causes an increase in blood sugar and weakens the immune system. Stabilizing the blood sugar not only improves focus but decreases moodiness and frustration. Consider providing your children with creative leftovers from the previous night’s meal, some homemade trail mix, veggies, mixed fruit or frozen yogurt — which should be about perfect come lunch time. Ditch the juice boxes and throw in some water. When purchasing foods and snacks, take the time to read the labels and see if you can stick to foods with six ingredients or less. You’ll find this to be quite a challenge but one worth doing. If you don’t recognize an ingredient and can’t pronounce it, more than likely you don’t need it. You’ll not only spend less but you will be forced to get creative and rethink what you are ingesting.

There are many natural immunity builders, and I would love to share just a few of my favorites, but please note that many of the herbs suggested need to be discussed with your family physician if you currently take other medications or contend with allergies and other medical conditions.

Foods that have been shown to have great impact on strengthening the immune system are those high in protein. Even vegetarians require this building block for healthy anti-bodies and white blood cells. Consider Greek yogurt (preferably plain and sugar-free), fish, beans, Brazil nuts, chicken and eggs. When selecting your produce, consider the fruits and vegetables of the season as your best choice for building the immune system. Nature has an incredible way of providing exactly what we need at exactly the right time. Blackberries, blueberries, celery, raw onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit, lemons and pineapple are all powerful healing foods. Consider a variety of brightly colored produce in order to receive more types of anti-oxidants.

Probiotics, zinc, echinicea, golden seal, cayenne, ginger, bee pollen, rosemary and green tea, and A,B,C and E vitamins (including folic acid), are also powerful dietary herbs and supplements that can strengthen and defend the immune system.

There are many components to maintaining our health, and we cannot overlook the need for proper hydration, adequate rest and play time, along with exercise.  But one of the greatest and simplest ways to build our defense is through our food choices. Take the time to be intentional when planning your meals and see the benefits it brings to your overall health. When your body is properly nourished, you will find you are able to enjoy your fall and winter with fewer interruptions from sickness, and more time indulging in the many fun things you can only experience when your body is vibrant and strong. Sit down with your family, create a list of some favorites and bulk up that fridge with healing foods that will feed your body and your spirit!

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