Immune-Boosting Tips: How to Strengthen your Immune System with a Healthy Lifestyle

Looking to boost your immune system? With most of society currently staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19, many of us are wondering what we can do to strengthen our immunity to these types of viruses.

First, it’s important to understand that taking a mega-load of vitamins can’t boost your immunity in a matter of days. Rather, a healthy diet and habits build up and improve your immune system over time.

That said, it’s never too late to get started!

While there is no magic pill that will coat your immune system in an armor of protection, there are important ways you can take care of yourself and boost your immune system through diet, rest, exercise and stress management.

Foods and Vitamins that boost your immune system

A healthy, immune-boosting diet should be high in fiber and consist of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed and sugary foods. Each day, you should be eating a rainbow of color in fresh produce.

And, ideally, you’ll want to eat a variety of fresh veggies and fruits that supply your body with the following immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.

VITAMIN A: High in helpful carotenoids, you’ll find vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash.

VITAMIN B6: Find it in salmon, tuna, leafy greens and chickpeas.

VITAMIN B12: While B12 can be found in salmon, yogurt, eggs and meat, it’s harder to get for vegetarians and vegans. If you avoid meat and eggs in your diet, be sure to supplement B12 with a quality supplement to avoid deficiency.

VITAMIN C: Long heralded as a friend to the immune system, Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, kale, spinach and broccoli. Try to get it through whole foods rather than a supplement.

VITAMIN D: Many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, especially in regions that don’t get as much sunlight. What’s more, studies have shown that people who take in high doses of Vitamin D are 40% less likely to develop respiratory infections. Be sure to eat plenty of foods that contain Vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, fresh eggs and mushrooms. Cod liver oil is also an excellent supplement.

VITAMIN E: A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds and dark greens such as spinach and broccoli.

ZINC: Zinc is an important mineral to your immune system. Get this essential trace element in yogurt, salmon and eggs.

A high-quality probiotic is also a great way to keep your gut health happy and increase immune health. You’ll find it in fermented foods such as Greek yogurt, kimchi and kombucha. If you opt for a supplement, look for one in the refrigerated section at your local nutrition store, and be sure it has a wide variety of strains and cultures available.

And avoid alcohol and sugar whenever possible. Excess alcohol consumption wears down the immune system, as it reduces the number of microbes in the gut microbiome. And sugary and processed foods can really wreak havoc on your entire system.

The importance of rest, relaxation & exercise

Many studies have shown that stress and lack of quality sleep are major factors contributing to health problems and disease.

While the coronavirus outbreak has stress levels high for all of us, we don’t have to let that stress go unchecked. Now more than ever, it is crucial to have a solid stress management plan in place and to create healthy daily habits to foster a sense of peace and wellbeing.

Check in with yourself throughout the day to focus on taking long, deep breaths. Make a mental checklist of everything you are grateful for. Start or maintain a mindfulness meditation routine. And be sure to practice self care, whether that is a hot bubble bath or a morning yoga session.

It’s also incredibly important to get enough sleep each night. Aim for 7-8 hours per night for optimal health and stress management.

If you find anxiety keeping you awake, you can try a natural supplement like CBD or melatonin, or, do a yoga session  and or exercise routine just before bed to tire your body and brain. If insomnia or restlessness persists, consult your physician.

And speaking of exercise — be sure to get at least 20-30 minutes of moderately strenuous activity per day. Whether that’s a brisk walk or job around your neighborhood (maintaining appropriate 6-foot social distancing), a run on the treadmill or a yoga session, keeping active is key to heart, lung and immune health. Plus, it’s a natural stress reliever!

Healthy Meals Made Easy: The Scoop on Meal Delivery Services

If you’re like most of us, you’re busy. You know that eating healthy is crucial to your health, hormone balance and energy level. You know that eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains will benefit your health — and that reducing processed foods loaded with added sugars, carbs and hard-to-pronounce ingredients will help you feel better in the long run. 

But finding time to plan out, shop for, prepare and cook wholesome meals can be a challenge. It’s the very reason so many of us find ourselves reaching for the nearest convenience food despite our best intentions. 

Recently, a plethora of online meal services have set out to solve that problem by delivering healthy, whole-foods based meals right to your door, taking planning and shopping off your list. Some of them even do the cooking for you!

But how do these programs work, and are they really worth the cost? We explore a few of the most popular options below. Whether you use one of these services as your main meal strategy or as a quick fill-in to complement your own meals planning, there are a variety of options to suit just about every diet. Best of all, you can customize your weekly meal plans, and skip any weeks you won’t be needing it (ie, you’re going on vacation).

Like to Cook But Lack the Time?

If you’re someone who enjoys cooking but lacks the time or willpower to find healthy recipes, shop for weekly ingredients and prep time-intensive meals, a service like Hello Fresh or Purple Carrot may just be the extra bit of help you need to keep your healthy diet on track. Both services curate your recipes and ingredients for you, leaving you to simply take care of a little meal prep and cooking.

Hello Fresh offers ten new recipes each week, so you never have to fall into a dinner rut again. You’re also in the driver’s seat — you choose whether you want meals based on meat and veggies, low-calorie recipes, or a plant-based menu. Customize your weekly meal plan to accommodate the number of people you’re feeding, and enjoy healthy meals for as low as $5.66 per serving.

Meanwhile, for $7.49 per serving, Blue Apron offers chef-designed meals from balanced Mediterranean dishes to quick and easy one-pan dinners. Choose from meat, fish, or vegetarian focused menu plans. They even offer special diabetes-friendly recipes.

Need Fast, On-The-Go Meals?

Whether cooking isn’t your forte, or you just need quick, easy morning and lunch options, there are a number of ready-to-eat meal services on the market. Unlike the options mentioned above, these services do the prep and cooking for you, so all you need to do is drink your breakfast, or heat up your meal.

Fairly new to the scene, Daily Harvest delivers soups, smoothies, oats and harvest bowls that are pre-made and arrive frozen. Smoothies come in ready-to-sip bottles and include a variety of nutritious options, such as Banana & Greens, blended with fresh ingredients like kale, spinach, wheatgrass, cucumber and banana. These make for a nutrient-dense kickstart to your day, or work great as a post-workout meal or afternoon snack. The harvest bowls (such as Brussels Sprouts and Tahini) and soups (such as Green Chickpea & Kale or Cauliflower & Leek) give you wholesome, filling lunch options that are easy to heat and eat during a busy day. No more drive-through food for you!

This service also allows you to focus on your particular dietary needs, including vegan, gluten-free and even ketogenic options. Daily Harvest can be spendy (many options run over $7 for serving) but can be worth its weight in gold for keeping your diet and health on track.

If you’re looking for a healthy and easy vegan and gluten-free meal plan, Splendid Spoon focuses on delivering nutrient-dense whole foods in the form of smoothies, soups and grain bowls. From breakfast smoothies like Carrot Ginger and Green Matcha to fresh soups, it’s a quick and easy way to get plenty of fresh, whole foods and nutrients on the go. 

Their hearty grain bowls also make a great lunch or dinner option, with delicious options like Brown Rice Taco, Moroccon Spiced Buckwheat and Carrot Lentil Curry bowls. Weekly meal delivery runs $65-135 per week, depending on whether you want morning smoothies only, or a more complete breakfast/lunch meal plan.

A Commitment-Free Way to Kickstart Healthy Eating

Even if you don’t plan to use a meal-service long term, one of these options can be a great way to kickstart healthy diet changes. If you find yourself still grabbing fast food or heavily processed foods, using one of these meal services can help you create healthier habits with little additional effort. 

Whether you use these options as a stepping stone to creating your own healthy meal plans, or determine that these are great long term options to keep your diet and health on track, we can all use a helping hand.

And if you decide a service is not for you, you can pause or cancel your deliveries at any time.

Here’s to healthy eating!