FORT MEADE, Md. -- The average person sees a health care provider just five times a year for 20 minutes a session -- a hundred minutes. That leaves 525,500 minutes during the year to engage in healthy behaviors that enhance and promote health and wellness.
This majority of time is known as the life space.
Decisions made pertaining to daily activities such as nutrition, activity and sleep will make a greater difference to your health than the 100 minutes visiting your health care provider.
By better managing our nutrition, sleep and activity (The Performance Triad), we are maximizing our health and changing our current health care system into a system of health.
As winter approaches, it won't be long before friends, family members, co-workers and relatives will be sneezing, coughing and suffering with colds, upper respiratory infections and flu-like symptoms right in front of you. This is the reason and the season to boost your immune system to prevent getting sick.
The best ways to do this is to wash your hands 11 or more times throughout the day, get enough rest to avoid stressing your immune system and eat the following foods to boost your immunity:
Proteins are the building blocks for the immune system since they make up white blood cells and antibodies that search out and destroy germs.
Although the typical American diet does not lack protein, the populations at risk are the elderly and vegetarians. Lean beef, lamb, pork, and baked or broiled skinless chicken are all good sources of protein. All you need is 4 to 8 ounces a day or enough to measure two decks of cards in thickness and size.
Saturated fats found in fatty meats, chicken skins and fried foods cooked in shortening promotes low-grade inflammation in the body that drains the immune system of its infection-fighting properties.
Other good sources of low-fat proteins are beans, egg whites, fish and low-fat yogurt.
Astaxanthin is the powerful antioxidant found in seafood that boosts the immune system. Known as a carotenoid, astaxanthin is responsible for the color change from gray to reddish pink in shrimp when it is cooked. This coloring is also in salmon, lobster, crabs and crawfish.
Sardines also are a great immune-protective lean protein that contains anti-inflammatory, Omega-3 essential fatty acids and zinc and selenium, two minerals that boost the immune system.
One of the best proteins to boost your immune system, and possibly increase your longevity, is yogurt. Most yogurts contain two live probiotic or friendly bacteria cultures, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermopholis, that help maintain a healthy gut.
Since 70 percent of the immune system resides in the gut, maintaining a healthy gut to enhance your immune response is important. These friendly bacteria also may decrease arthritic inflammation and suppress the bacteria H. pylori, which is responsible for most ulcers.
One study showed that eating yogurt more than three times per week increased a person's survival rate by 38 percent. Aim for eating one cup of low-fat, sugar-free yogurt per day since sugar depresses immune function and attracts harmful microbes in your body like yeast.
* Seeds and nuts:
Pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts are another immune-boosting food. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. A diet deficient in zinc has been shown to compromise white blood cells and lower immune response. One half-cup of pumpkin seeds contains 6 milligrams of zinc. Adults need an average of 40 milligrams of zinc per day.
Other good sources of zinc are beef, lamb and scallops. Pumpkin seeds also may help reduce the risk of prostate and ovarian cancers.
Brazil nuts are the absolute best source of the immune-strengthening mineral called selenium, which expedites the white cell's ability to fight off microbes and germs.
Selenium also protects the cells from free radical damage, lessening the chances of viruses to form into more aggressive strains and, overall, rejuvenates immune cells, making them more responsive to fight germs.
One Brazilian nut contains 75-100 micrograms of selenium, which is the daily recommended intake of this micronutrient.
Editor's note: Part two of this nutrition series will focus on the immune benefits of garlic, green tea, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
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