Strong Immunity September: Eat Nutrient Dense Food to Boost Immunity
It's Strong Immunity September, and we're focusing on what we can do to boost our immune systems and improve our immunity against COVID-19 (and all viruses). This week, Richmond health coach Lindsey Patton is discussing how diet and nutrition can boost your immune system, specifically by eating nutrient dense foods. Watch the video below and read on for the full recap.
What are nutrient dense foods?
Eating foods that are high in nutritional density can help boost your immune system against all viruses, including COVID-19.
By definition, foods that are nutrient dense are ones that are relatively low in calories but pack a lot of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Usually, they are low in carbohydrates. On the flip side, we have empty calories, a term I'm sure you've heard before. These are your cookies, cakes, candies, sugary drinks, etc. These types of food are high in sugar and add no nutritional value to our bodies.
How do they boost our immune systems?
Empty calorie foods taste good, sure, but they are addictive and cause inflammation in our bodies, which make us more prone to disease and sickness, such as COVID-19. Nutrient dense food, however, reduce your inflammation and, because they are often natural and whole foods, give your immune system the tools it needs to operate at high efficiency.
What are some examples of nutrient dense foods vs. non-nutrient dense foods?
When it comes to choosing your foods to improve COVID-19, look for whole foods with low carbohydrates, a good amount of protein, and a low amount of added sugars (preferrably none). Here are a few examples of good choices and bad choices.
- Good choice: A package of spicy, chunk guacamole. It has 70 calories, no cholesterol, 1g of saturated fats, 5g of carbs, and there is no added sugars. That added sugar is what is going to cause inflammation.
- Bad choice: Blood-orange, non-alcoholic ginger beer. This is an example of a sugary drink that would be more of an empty calorie option. Just one can of this ginger beer has 35g of carbohydrates. It also has 30g of total sugars, including 29 of them that have been added. That's just added inflammation, which makes us susceptible to illness. Even choosing a diet option for this would be a better choice.
- Bad choice: Girl scout cookies, specifically thin mints. These have 22g of carbs for every four cookies. We all know we can eat more than four of these in one sitting easily. In addition, they have have 10g of total sugars, and all of them are added sugars. These are addictive because of the sugar content. In terms of boosting your immunity, choose foods that are whole foods.
- Good choice: Eggs. One egg has 6g of protein, which is a lot for a typically sized egg. They also have 0 carbs and 0 sugars, with just 5g of fat. Natural fats like this help keep you full longer, which helps limit snacking on empty calories.
- Bad choice: Bob's Red Mill Protein Bar. If you look at the marketing specifically, it says it is naturally flavored, non-GMO, gluten-free, and whole grain. If you solely looked at the front, you would think this is a good choice. However, looking at the label, one of these protein bars has 28g of carbohydrates, which is certainly high. If you're following a low-carb diet, which is under 100g of carbs per day, this would represent a 1/4 of your carb intake with just one small bar. Also, look at the ratio of sugars to protein. This bar has 11g of sugar (9 of which are added sugars) and only 7g of protein. 7g of protein might sound decent, but when there is more sugar than protein, it becomes not the best chance.
- Good choice: Cottage cheese. This one in particular is a low-fat option. It is ok to have a full-fat cottage cheese, because it will keep you full longer. However, remember fat should just be a tool to eat until you are full. You don't want to overeat fat, because that will increase your weight and your BMI and make you more susceptible to illness. This cottage cheese has 5g of carbs, which is nice and low. It has 13g of protein with 4g of sugar, but none of that is added sugar, so you can consider it natural.
Join me for a Live Q&A on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. on our Facebook page. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments ahead of time and I'll be sure to answer them on Thursday! Don't have Facebook? You don't need to account to watch on Thursday, but you won't be able to interact live. As always, we'll post a recap after the video as well. Find all of our Strong Immunity September content here.