As a sedentary child who didn't realize the importance of health and fitness until I was an adult, I decided to turn my life around and hit the ground running (literally). This is the story of my journey, my experiences, and everything I am learning on the way. I'm a veggie on a mission! :)
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I'm a repeat offender when it comes to learning my lessons the hard way. Several years ago, I had a wonderful woman named Noelle in my life who was our work's health/life coach. She told me on several occasions that if I didn't eat dairy or wheat, I would see a huge transformation in my health because they are both very inflammatory foods (and ones I ate a lot of), and my body wasn't handling them well. She also stressed the importance of integrating fermented foods and a probiotic into my diet, to help strengthen my digestive and immune systems. Did I listen?
No. And here I am today.
Coming down off of what feels like the 5th cold/flu since Thanksgiving, I have about reached my limit with my health. I swore that this year, I was going to feel amazing, be healthy, and stop uttering the words "I don't feel well." I was always very proud of how little I got sick and attributed that a lot to my diet. Since I have messed with my diet so much over the past 6 months, and my body is going through a detox, my immune system is clearly weakened and I am getting hit very hard when cold/flu viruses come my way. I gave in this time and went and got an antibiotic (which helped profusely, by the way), but the fact of the matter is: I don't like being on medication. I don't like how I feel when my body is loaded with medicine and drugs. I wish I didn't need to get to the antibiotic point. I am going to do what needs to be done, obviously, but not only was my body loaded with medicine nonstop for the past week and a half, this was coupled with no exercise, no strength training or running, and poor food choices (eating only comfort foods and very little fruits/vegetables). This resulted in me just feeling soft, fat, and worn down.
Time to go back to the basics:
1. As soon as I am done with my antibiotics, I am going on a probiotic. I've been resistant to this idea for so long (mainly out of stubbornness), because all of the ones I was seeing either had to be refrigerated or contained some type of milk/dairy. My co-worker gave me one to try (TruNature) that is a vegetarian capsule that is Abby-Diet approved. Win.
2. I'm back to making smoothies (in my fabulous new Vitamix!! Thanks Jay! <3), and juicing fruits and vegetables. Nothing bad can come from this.
3. Time to load up on immune boosting foods. I truly believe I can do this the natural way, and I am hell bent on doing so.
So which foods are best? There are a lot of different websites on the topic, but the majority of them have the same lists. Here is a list that I have compiled on my own.
1. Chicken Soup
They always say to eat chicken soup when you are sick. Except for I don't eat chicken. I wanted to know WHY they always say this, other than it being something your mother or grandmother always said.
Turns out that chicken soup is high in an amino acid cysteine, a powerful nasal stimulant that helps detoxify the body of chemicals and breakdown extra mucus in the lungs. Other sources: yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onion, broccoli and oats.
2. Onion and garlic
Both onion and garlic contain numerous antiseptic and immunity boosting compounds. I've never been a huge onion fan, but I am not sure I could live without garlic. Garlic is high in allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.
Sad face. I can't have these right now. But maybe if I did, I would be healthy again. :) Mushrooms increase the production of cytokines, which help fight off infection, as well as increase the production of white blood cells. They also have polysaccharides, which support the immune system. Mushrooms are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B, and calcium, and high in beta glucans, which activate/modulate the immune system. Medicinal mushrooms for sure. :)
4. Citrus Fruits
High in vitamin C. Enough said.
5. Yogurt (or good bacteria)
The good bacteria in yogurt was one of the reasons I was drawn to this food for so long. However, since I can't eat yogurt anymore, any food with "good bacteria" will suffice. Good bacteria has live cultures that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease causing germs.
Other sources: Probiotics, apples (high in pectin), sauerkraut (fermented and contains lactobacilli plantarum and reduces growth of detrimental yeasts), and miso.
6. Hot tea
Green or black, it has the same effect. Tea helps to thin mucus and provide hydration, and contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. They also both have the amino acid L-theanine, which boosts immunity.
Ginger contains a chemical called sesquiterpene that targets the rhinovirus. It's also a natural pain and fever reliever.
Honey contains antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that help fight infection, bacteria, and fungus.
9. Black pepper
Wards off sneezing! It is also high in piperine, which is known for its anti-fever and pain-relieving qualities.
Shellfish contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, which in turn help clear flu viruses from the body. Other fish are high in Omega-3 acids, which help fight inflammation. This keeps airflow moving and protects the lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
<-- look at that face. How can you eat that? :)
I'm obviously not going to, so my option is to look for other foods high in Zinc. Zinc is an immunity boosting mineral that also aids in the development of white blood cells, which help recognize and destroy bacteria and viruses.
Other sources: fortified cereals, wheat germ, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, dried watermelon seeds, dark chocolate/cocoa powder, peanuts.
12. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes, besides being delicious, are high in beta-carotene and vitamin A, which translates into happy, healthy skin. Your skin is the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses and should not be overlooked.
Other sources: carrots, squash, pumpkin, and cantelope.
13. Antioxidants in general!
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage, and can help ward off chronic diseases, while making your immune system strong. There are 3 major variations:
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts into monolaurin once it's digested. Monolaurin is the actual compound found in breast milk that strengthen's a baby's immunity. Added bonus: coconut water is super high in potassium and is an excellent source of hydration.
15. Blueberries and Raspberries
Both blueberries and raspberries are incredibly high in antioxidants. Blueberries, in particular, are potent immune boosters.