Tips to Help You Eat More Plants

We have a plant problem in the US today and I’m not talking about marijuana. By and large most Americans aren’t eating enough plants in their diets in spite of volumes of studies showing that eating plant-based diets is key for lasting health and weight management because they are loaded with so many vital nutrients our bodies depend on. Part of the issue is that we are a very meat-centric society and many of us just don’t know how to work more vegetables into our cooking routine because we are so used to meals consisting of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. However, there are many plants that are great sources of protein and can easily stand in for that meat on your plate. Here are some tips to get you started on eating more plants.

Eat something green with every meal

This one is a great rule to live by and will instantly get more plants into your diet. Just add a green vegetable to every meal. This could mean adding spinach to your eggs in the morning, throwing some greens into your sandwich at lunch, and having some kale or green beans with dinner. Having green vegetables with your meals will help fill you up and can buffer against the effects of high-fat meals to a degree.

Practice Meatless Mondays

Commit to eating vegetarian one day a week. This one will require some work on your part because it’s very easy to just resort to carbs, like pasta and bread, and you may need to search for some good recipes. But it’s worth it!

Eat more quinoa

Quinoa has become a wellness buzz food and for good reason. This little seed is a complete protein and is a good source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. It’s also gluten free. Prepared like you would rice, quinoa can be flavored pretty much any way and is versatile for use in meals. I’ve used it like rice, made pizza crust with it, made meatless meatballs with it – lots of things!

Make friends with cauliflower

Cauliflower is another versatile plant food that can be used for a large number of things. For example, you can make pizza crust with it, puree it to make an alfredo sauce, or use it as a substitute for rice. These recipes are super easy and are a great way to eat more veggies!

Give vegetable noodles a try

Don’t have a spiralizer? That’s OK! Most grocery stores now carry a variety of vegetable noodles, from squash to zucchini to sweet potato to beets. And the internet is loaded with different recipes for every type of vegetable noodle. You could use spaghetti squash instead of regular noodles as well.

Load your pasta sauce

Marinara and pasta sauces are a great place to hide vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. You can load your sauces with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash – you name it. Keep it chunky or puree it for a smoother sauce. Either way, you just ate way more vegetables!

Drink more smoothies

Smoothies can be another good way to increase the amount of plants you’re consuming on a daily basis. Using fresh or frozen fruit and adding some vegetables like spinach, kale, or cucumber, you can make a powerhouse of a smoothie. Just be careful not to overload your smoothie so you end up with a high calorie treat rather than a healthy snack or meal.

Replace those chips and crackers

There are many healthy plant options you can choose for snacks on the go other than chips and crackers. Nuts, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber. Crunchy chickpeas are also a yummy plant snack on the go and can be bought or made in a variety of different flavors. Carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas are also taken on the go very easily and are great for dipping.

Treat yourself to the cut fruit plate

Many of us balk at the pre-cut fruit platters they sell at the grocery store because they really charge you for the convenience. But, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile investment if it will make it easier for you to eat healthier.

Replace your bread with greens

Replace your wraps with collard leaves and your tortillas with lettuce cups. You could also use slices of sweet potato or cucumber instead of bread for your sandwiches.

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is actually quite easy to get more plants into your daily diet. Once you find some recipes you like and work them into your routine with some minimal prep, you’ll be eating plants like you’ve been doing it all along.

Why Do I Get Sick When I Start a New Workout Routine?

Does it seem like every time you try to start a new exercise routine you get sick and end up having to start all over again? You’re not alone and this is an actual thing – it’s not just your body betraying you, though it may seem like it.

So let’s look at what’s going on when this happens and the steps you can take to stop it from happening to you next time.

Stress on Your Body

While exercise is really good for your body, it’s important to remember that it is also a stressor on your body, especially if it’s different or more vigorous than you’re used to. That stress on your body can temporarily run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses. It’s similar to how your immune system can get run down if you’re lacking in sleep for too long. One way of thinking of it is that your body has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more of them to exertion and healing/recovery from a workout, there are less resources to allocate to your immune system. Obviously, this isn’t quite what’s happening but it’s a way of thinking about it.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, civilized human beings who actually thoroughly wipe down the equipment they use when they’re done are few and far between, so you’re sharing whatever they left on the treadmill before you. Free weights in particular are the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. In fact, one study found that free weights contain more than 300 times the germs found on a toilet seat. Sorry, but you needed to know. It makes sense when you think about it – how many times have you seen someone actually wipe down the weights before they re-rack them? Exactly. Never.

Your fitness classes are also guilty of being germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And, just as at the gym, you can’t count on your neighbor wiping down her equipment as diligently as you do.

Add to this germy mix a rundown immune system and you have a perfect equation for a fitness de-railing illness.

So what can you do to end the vicious exercise-sickness-exercise cycle?

Tips for Keeping Healthy

  • Wipe down your equipment BEFORE and after use.
  • Avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring your own towel – some gyms transport their dirty and clean towels in the same gym, thereby recontaminating the clean towels with bacteria.
  • Try to make sure you wipe your face with the side of the towel that hasn’t touched the equipment – you can do this by putting a mark on one side of your towel or using a towel that has a pattern on one side.
  • Ease into your new workouts instead of running headlong in so it’s less of a strain on your body. You can do this by taking more modifications in your first class or starting your runs at a slower pace, for example.
  • If you’re going to try a new workout that’s more strenuous or just different from what you’re used to, do what you can to support your immune system – drink lots of water, take your vitamins, get enough rest, eat lots of fruits and veggies for those phytonutrients.

My Routine

I’m a fairly fit person, but I’ve dealt with the struggle of starting a new exercise regimen and getting sick immediately many times. Most recently, I tried a new HIIT class which is very different from what I’m used to and I got majorly sick within a couple days. So I have developed a new routine to avoid that.

Hydration. Not only do I make sure to drink water while I’m working out, I make sure to refill my water bottle before I leave and continue to drink it on my way home with the goal of replenishing fluids and then some.

Hand Washing. I try to be mindful about not touching my face during my workout and I wash my hands in the locker room before I leave. I also wash them again when I get home even if I’m going to shower right away (Confession: I usually eat before showering #priorities).

Immune System Support: I make sure to support my immune system by taking a Shaklee Vitalized Immunity tablet with a big glass of water when I get home and I take my vitamins with a nutritious snack or meal.

Rest. I’m an early to bed person. I have always needed a lot of sleep and that hasn’t changed with age so I listen to my body for bed time.

Restore. I don’t go right back to it the next day. I give my body a break by doing something lighter that will still get my blood pumping, like a long walk or yoga. Then I’m giving my body some chance to recuperate while stimulating the lining of my blood vessels, the endothelium, which releases its own natural “medicine” to help me continue to recover.

Once you’ve gotten over this hurdle, be sure to check out my tips for keeping yourself motivated to workout so you can keep up the good work!

Accomplishing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Did you know that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail? And 80% of them fail by February? Those seem like pretty depressing odds, but you CAN make your healthy New Year’s resolutions a reality by avoiding some of the common pitfalls I often see people making. Whether you are looking to lose weight or to just get healthier, here are my tips for keeping your resolutions alive.

Pitfall 1: You Don’t Make It Official

It may seem silly, but there is a lot of power behind writing down a goal. It puts the energy out there for it and also helps you get more clear about what it is you want to accomplish. Better yet, if you write it down and place it somewhere prominent where you can see if often, it can serve as a daily reminder/motivation to keep working towards your goal.

Pitfall 2: You Don’t Know Your Why

Knowing why you want to accomplish a goal is just as important as having a goal. There are going to be times when working towards your resolution is challenging, you’re beating yourself up, and you just want to quit. In those instances, having a very strong reason why you want to accomplish your goal will keep you going. I don’t mean “I want to lose weight because I need to be healthier” – that’s very vague and not personal. You need to dig deep for your why: “I want to lose weight because I want to be able to chase my children around at the playground” or “I want to lose weight because I want to go on an international hiking trip to see some of the world’s most amazing natural sites.” These are powerful why’s that mean something personal to you. Once you know your why, take it a step further and write it down with your resolution.

Pitfall 3: Not Setting Specific Goals

Making your goals specific enough is critical and can be challenging. Without a specific goal, it can be impossible to track your progress or know when you’ve achieved your goal. Plus, if you don’t know exactly what you’re working towards, how will you stay motivated? Instead of making your resolution “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get healthier” make it “I want to lose 30 pounds” or “I want to be a size 6” or “I want to be able to run a 5k.” That way you can measure your efforts and your success.

Pitfall 4: You Don’t Plan Ahead

In a society where we are surrounded by sedentary entertainment and processed, unhealthy foods, it can be a challenge to stick to healthful goals. This is why planning ahead is crucial. Going to a party or gathering? Bring some healthy foods you can snack on. Taking a trip? Plan for some activity time in advance. Going out to dinner? Review the menu online ahead of time so you know what the healthy options are going into it.

Pitfall 5: You Go It Alone

Accountability is a very powerful motivating force. Tell someone you know will check in with you about your resolution and your plans for accomplishing it. Even better, find someone to work towards it with you. For example, if you know that you have a hard time getting yourself to the gym, find yourself a gym buddy. If you want to become a runner, sign up for a 5k with a friend so you have a deadline and an accountability partner.

Pitfall 6: You’re Too Focused

The major reason why most diets fail is that they are not sustainable. They are built on the premise of deprivation so they give you results fast, but you can’t stay on them in the long-term and you gain back the weight pretty quickly. If you are looking to lose weight or to just eat healthier, make sure that you build in a treat day. Balance is the key to success and having a designated time to indulge will help keep you on track – as long as you plan ahead for it so you don’t go overboard and get right back on track after. For example, if sweets are your thing, you could say that Fridays are your treat day and you can have dessert with dinner on Fridays. Likewise, if you are going to a party or some other function and know there will be treats there, make a deal with yourself ahead of time that you can have one slice of cake or some of your friend’s famous nacho dip. We are human. We eat for two reasons: to survive and for pleasure. You need both sides of the coin to be successful.

Pitfall 7: You Eat Too Much Salad

Many of us think that in order to lose weight and eat healthy, we need to just eat a lot of salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are an awesome powerhouse of nutrients, but they can get old really fast. There are tons and tons of healthy meals you can have that are not salads. Check out my recipes or jump on Pinterest and there will be lots of healthy food inspiration for you. Variety is the spice of life, so make sure you change it up a bit!

Pitfall 8: You’re Not Tracking

No one wants to track what they eat but it is super important, especially in the beginning of any healthy eating routine. You would be shocked at how much you eat without even realizing it and also how much of it isn’t as healthy as you would think. My recommendation to you is to track your eating at least for the first 2 weeks of your resolution so you can really get a feel for what you’re putting into your body. Think about it, how can you change what you don’t know? It’s worth the tedium of tracking for a couple weeks.

Pitfall 9: You’re Not Exercising

We often hear that maintaining a healthy weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise. But if you’re only eating healthy, then you’re only going to get yourself 80% of the way there. Remember that our bodies can acclimate to our calorie intake and just focusing on food will get you to that dreaded weight loss plateau. A varied exercise routine will help keep you working steadily towards your goal and you will get there more quickly as well. Plus, exercise is crucial to a healthy heart and circulatory system, a healthy respiratory system, healthy bones and muscles, and it’s even beneficial for your immune system.

Pitfall 10: You’re Not Hydrating

As an adult, you should be drinking 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day. Water keeps your joints and muscles working well, helps flush your body, helps you feel full, helps keep your skin healthy, and so much more. I bet that you have had someone say to you that there is a chance you’re thirsty when you think you’re hungry. Keeping yourself hydrated is critical to helping you get healthier and/or lose weight.

Pitfall 11: You’re Not Supplementing

Regardless of how healthy you eat, I can promise you that you are not getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. In fact, 90% of Americans aren’t getting the nutrition our bodies need. There are a number of reasons for this. Among them are that our produce isn’t as nutritious as it once was, that, biologically speaking, a 2000 calorie diet isn’t normal for humans so we are trying to get all of our nutrition is fewer calories, plus factors like antibiotic use, consumption of inorganic meats, and digestive issues. In order for your body to function at its best, it needs to be properly nourished and supplementing with quality supplements is the way to do that. Regularly taking supplements will also help you reach your health goals by properly fueling your body. With regular supplementation, you may even notice a change in your appetite!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy New Year and all the best with your resolutions!

Holiday Party Health Tips

Holiday parties can end in regret for a number of reasons, overindulgence very often being top amongst them. Overindulgence once in a while isn’t really a problem, but during the holiday season when parties are often at least a weekly occurrence, those extra treats can really add up and derail your weight management goals. So how can you enjoy your holiday parties without overdoing it?

Plan Ahead

Staying on track through the holidays requires advanced planning. Before you head out to a party, or to your office break room for that matter, I recommend making a deal with yourself. What are you going to drink? How many drinks? What snacks are you really looking forward to enjoying? Pick one or two you will allow yourself to have and then switch to healthy options. By doing this, you are starting off with a game plan right out of the gate with clear limits to follow. You also get to start off your night with enjoyment without overdoing it so you will feel even better afterwards.

Accountability

Very often, these plans will require you to be your own accountability partner, but you may be able to recruit your partner or friend to hold you accountable to sticking to your plan. If you know yourself and know you are the type who needs that external accountability (and there is nothing wrong with that!) then make sure that your accountability person is someone you trust, someone you know will hold you accountable, and that it is not a relationship that could suffer as a result of your accountability arrangement.

Know Yourself and Strategize

Do you struggle with self-control? Are you a mindless eater? Are you easily swayed by others? It’s really important that you know yourself – your strengths and your weaknesses.

If you know that you like to pick at foods or are a mindless eater, then choose a place away from the food table to station yourself to socialize. When you get food, portion out what you want onto a plate, even if it’s chips and dip, and walk away. Give yourself some time before returning for the table for more. Very often, if you distract yourself with socializing or playing a game, you will forget about that urge to indulge some more. You might also find that you weren’t actually still hungry¬† – don’t forget that those treats trigger pleasure receptors in your brain that make you want more even if you’re not actually hungry.

If you find that you eat more or drink more in social situations, try to find people to hang out with who are moderate themselves more or maybe aren’t drinkers. Likewise, if you have that one friend who is really not a good influence, ie. “come on! One piece of cake won’t kill you!”, try to avoid one-on-one time with them. You could also try being very honest and up-front with them: “I really am trying very hard to stay on track tonight and your support would mean a lot to me. I really don’t feel like having another piece of cake.”

Stay Hydrated

Making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the gathering is key. Not only will it help pace your drinking, it will also help you control your eating as water can make you feel more full. Drinking water between drinks or plates or even bites can also help slow you down so you can check in with yourself and see if you really want/need more of whatever treat you’re thinking of.

Bring Something Healthy

If it’s a gathering where people are pitching in by bringing different dishes, why not bring something healthy you will want to eat? You might worry that you’re being selfish or will catch some flack for bringing something healthy or that no one will eat it, but I can guarantee there is at least one other person there trying to keep on track as well who will be grateful that you brought it. Plus, you will be guaranteeing yourself a healthy option that you enjoy to focus on after you’ve had your treats.

 

These are health tips from a certified health coach who has had her own struggles with staying on track in the past (spoiler: it’s me) and, while they are helpful, I have to say that you really must be committed and ready to make this holiday season different for them to truly work. Advice is only as useful insofar as you are committed to following it, so that commitment and readiness are critical for the success of any health goals.

So, are you ready to make this holiday season different with balance and commitment and start your New Year off in health and wellness? Comment below with your goals!

How to Handle the Leftovers

Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. Either way, despite your best efforts, during the holiday season you may very often find your home full of temptations and those can be the undoing of many health goals. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it. So how should you handle having those leftovers, whether they’re appetizers, from the meal, or candy?

Food waste has long been an issue that bothers me to the core so, for a long time, I was the type of person who would keep it in the house and eat it, even if it wasn’t good for me. Then, at the beginning of my weight management journey, at a meeting of a weight loss program that I will not mention here, I was given one gift. In that meeting the group leader was talking about throwing away junk food and many of us were visibly not cool with that idea. Then she said something to the effect of the following: food contains nutrients that nourish, heal, and support your body and your health. Junk food does not contain anything that does any good for your body. Therefore, we need to stop thinking of junk food as food and get comfortable with putting it in the garbage.

Am I saying to throw all of your leftovers out? No. What it really comes down to is balance.

We, as human beings, eat for two reasons: 1. to survive, and 2. for enjoyment. If you’re not eating any foods you enjoy, if you’re not treating yourself, then you’re only getting half the experience and, on top of that, you’re going to feel deprived and unhappy….and maybe a little cranky.

So here is my advice for those leftovers after you have mindfully enjoyed your holiday dinner, party, etc.:

Set Deadlines

Just like you need to set boundaries with people who maybe aren’t so good for you to be around, you need to set boundaries with foods that aren’t so good for you, too. Having those unhealthy foods in your fridge or pantry for a week is too long – that could be 7 days straight of indulging and, the longer you’re off the bandwagon, the harder it is to jump back on.

I recommend setting a deadline of 3 days. After those 3 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with those problems foods – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce (sorry – it’s basically just sugar), etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey (not the skin), whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

A quick note on food donation: I deliberately didn’t suggest donating leftovers in this post for several reasons. One is that many pantries and soup kitchens will not accept homemade or opened donations for sanitary reasons. Additionally, most leftovers are perishable which makes it difficult for pantries and kitchens to take them as they will spoil too quickly. That said, if you have unopened items, then by all means, donate away.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!

Boost Your Immune System Naturally

I’m sure you’ve all heard the refrain “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, there is good reason why that saying exists! The foods we eat can help boost our immune systems to we get sick less frequently and, when we do get sick, it is less severe and we recover faster. There are also other healthful habits we can adopt that can maximize our immune systems to get through the Fall and Winter. So, now that Fall is here, the kids are back to school, and flu season is fast approaching, how can you support your immune system without relying on all kinds of medications?

Phytonutrients

Fresh produce is loaded with immune system-supporting compounds call phytonutrients (“phyto” means “plant”). These nutrients give plants their vibrant colors and distinct flavors. Phytonutrients include antioxidants which have been linked to a decrease in cancer risk by binding to the damaging free radicals in your body. They also include anti-inflammatory compounds as well. Inflammation continues to be linked to more and more illnesses and chronic diseases. Thus, phytonutrients protect your health on a number of different levels. To experience the benefits of phytonutrients, eat foods like berries, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. An easy way to think of this is eating the rainbow – the more different colors you can eat, the more phytonutrients you’re eating as well!

Add Some Flavor with Honey and Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a powerhouse of a spice. It has both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been shown to be antimicrobial and antibacterial as well. Once the cooler weather gets here, I start sprinkling cinnamon on top of my coffee grounds every morning – it’s delicious and I can enjoy the immune system boost from it as well. We are fortunate in that most traditional Fall recipes contain cinnamon, so eating seasonally will help get more cinnamon into your diet as well.

Similar to cinnamon, honey has proven antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Adding some honey to your tea, to plain yogurt, or to smoothies is a great way to consume more of this immunity boosting sweet.

Move!

Our blood vessels are lined with special cells called the endothelium. The endothelium is like your body’s own pharmacy in that it releases a number of different medicinal compounds into your bloodstream as is needed. When you exercise, it increases the blood flow through your blood vessels and over the endothelium, thereby prompting it to release more of those medicines. This is why sometimes when you feel a cold coming on, you feel better after going for a brisk walk. Additionally, regular exercise can help produce new blood vessels further improving your circulation and your health.

Rest Up

In the simplest sense, our bodies need just 4 things: nutrition, movement, water, and rest. The last of those is the one that we seem to value least in American society today. Sometimes it seems like there are competitions at work to see who is the most exhausted or the busiest. But sleep deprivation actually depresses your immune system, so the more exhausted you are, the more likely you are at to get sick. Sleep is the best opportunity your body gets each day to repair itself and flush out the toxins you take in during the day. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep you get, however, it’s about the quality, too. To make sure you are getting sufficient and quality sleep, avoid simple carbohydrates and big meals in the evening. Having a glass of wine before bed might help you fall asleep, but it will disrupt your sleep later in the night, so skip out on the alcohol as well. It’s also important that you sleep in a dark room and keep all devices out of the bedroom – just looking at your cell phone screen in the middle of the night will disrupt production of your sleep hormones.

Some other quick tips:

  • Practice good habits like washing your hands regularly (avoid using hand sanitizer – it’s loaded with chemicals and contributes to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacterias).
  • Avoid eating processed foods as they contain many ingredients that contribute to inflammation in your body and don’t contribute anything in the way of nutrition.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Keep well-hydrated – this means 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day (for adults).
  • Not necessarily “natural” in the strictest sense, but get your flu shot if you are part of the flu vaccine priority population.