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Immune Support Series: Food

Last week, I shared some vitamins and minerals that are especially helpful for immune support, and I promised that this week I would tell you where to find those minerals. Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, and I follow this philosophy wholeheartedly. Nature has a higher intelligence for providing us necessary nutrients, and when we eat nutritious food, these nutrients are easily absorbed into the body. Supplements can be helpful for short-term needs and special circumstances, but to support the roots of health, start with the diet. We can find these immune-strengthening nutrients in food and enjoy the benefits the way nature intended.

  • Magnesium -- a micronutrient necessary for both specific and nonspecific immunity. The best food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, especially Swiss chard and spinach, nuts and beans, including almonds, cashews, black-eyed peas, and navy beans, and whole grains, especially buckwheat, quinoa, and brown rice. Great news for all you chocolate lovers out there...cocoa is a great source of magnesium! The darker and less processed the better!

  • Zinc -- a mineral that helps the immune cells function better. This can be a tricky mineral to get enough in the diet. Far and away the food with the highest amount of zinc is oysters, but how often do you really eat oysters!? Some more common and more accessible sources of zinc include wheat germ, Swiss and cheddar cheese, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, and oats.

  • Vitamin D -- also known as the conductor of the immune system. Luckily the food industry has caught on to the importance of vitamin D and has fortified a lot of products with “the sunshine vitamin”. Almost all dairy milks and non-dairy substitutes are fortified with at least some vitamin D. Though the jury is still out on how much vitamin D is enough and how much is too much, nature’s vitamin D is always better absorbed. First and foremost, we get vitamin D from the sun. With the sun dwindling away this time of year, we look to the next best thing: fish. Sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, and shrimp are all great sources of naturally-occurring vitamin D. If buying canned fish, there is more vitamin D if you get the kind with bones. Don’t worry, the bones are soft. A great non-animal source of vitamin D is mushrooms. Morel, shiitake, and chanterelle seem to be the best.

Enjoy your Food as Medicine and enjoy a healthy winter!

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