It’s become more important than ever to focus on building your immune system to help your body fight off infections easily. Because of this, many people are starting to look at what they put into their bodies, so they know to eat foods that can help strengthen their system instead of causing it to decline.
There are dozens of diets, some that will help build your system more than others. The plant-based diet is one of the newer ones taking the world by storm for this reason. The key is to understand the food and know exactly what to put into your body so you can remain as healthy as possible.
Understanding Your Immune System
Your immune system is what protects your body from outside invaders like bacteria. It’s made up of different cells, organs, and proteins that work together to ensure you stay as healthy as possible. While your body can’t fight all infections that enter, it will help decrease your chances of illness.
There are two parts to your immune system. The first is the one that is part of you at birth and known as the innate immune system. The second, which is often called your adaptive system, is the one you develop when your body is exposed to chemicals and toxins that can make you sick.
One of the two immune systems is the innate immune system. It is a nonspecific defense mechanism that comes into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. This system is part of you from birth and is built, so it recognizes an invader. When this happens, the cells surround the unwanted bacteria or other foreign cells and work to get rid of them.
The cells specific to this system are known as phagocytes. They include physical barriers such as chemicals in the blood, skin, and other external and internal surfaces of the human body.
The second type is the acquired immune system, and this one needs the innate system to work correctly. It tends to change over time, depending on a person’s age and what type of antibodies the system is trying to fight off. It takes several days for the bacteria and other illnesses to develop, so the acquired system doesn’t start to work right away – it starts when it notices the development of the disease or sickness.
This system will also change when you’re given an immunization because it will take foreign bacteria from it and try to fight off what is trying to infect you, so you become immune to a specific illness.
The plant-based diet is sometimes called the plant-forward diet that focuses on eating foods directly from plants. This diet is different from a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet because many people won’t consume dairy and meat.
Besides the apparent fruits and vegetables, you will also consume nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Usually, plant-based eaters won’t call themselves vegan because they simply choose to focus on eating specific foods as a choice of diet.
There are many challenges that you need to overcome when it comes to changing your diet, especially if you eat meat and switch to plant-based. Even if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you still need to change your mind when it comes to meat and the type of fats you put into your body.
On top of this, you’ll start to focus more on whole grains, building a meal around a salad, greens, and eating fruit for dessert. You will begin to look at eating nuts for a snack, as this will give you the protein that you need for your body.
Another main reason why people turn to the plant-based diet is that it will help boost their health. Keeping yourself healthy will help you fight off illnesses, but it will also allow you to lead a more fulfilled life because you feel more energized and happier.
Other benefits of boosting your health are that it can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and other illnesses throughout your life. You will also lower inflammation in your body and give you better health outcomes.
One of the biggest questions you might have is how to know whether your immune system needs a health boost. Unfortunately, you can’t have a conversation with it, but you can notice signs that it lets you note where you sit on a healthy scale. For instance, if you feel “under the weather” or blah for a few days, you might want to take a look at your eating habits because it could be your system telling you that it’s not doing so great.
One sign is that you get sick a lot. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. You will find yourself catching the flu, cold, or other illnesses at any time of the year. It seems like whenever someone around you gets sick, then you’ll get it too. Another sign is that your colds will last longer. It can seem like they drag out for weeks or start to go away and then come back. Other symptoms are having a lot of allergies, eczema, or other skin disorders, feeling fatigued, and chronic digestive problems.
You Need to Do More Than Focus on a Plant-Based Diet
Focusing on a plant-based diet to boost your immune system is a big step to helping you get on the train of health. However, it’s essential to realize that you need to do more than simply change your diet to only eating fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. You need to understand the causes of a weakened immune system and incorporate all of this into your lifestyle so you can improve your well-being.
The best step to take is to change your diet and look at other factors in your life that can contribute to a poor immune system, such as lack of sleep, high level of stress, and a sedentary lifestyle. When you improve your life’s areas that can cause a weakened system along with your diet, you can build a more robust system faster.
A Weakened Immune System is Caused By Lack of Sleep
Do you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night? Maybe you have insomnia, or it seems like your mind just won’t stop thinking and let you rest. Many people feel that they get a second wind around their bedtime, even when they’ve felt exhausted for hours. This notion makes them stay up at night thinking or get out of bed to watch a movie or focus on a project.
You might think that a few nights now and then with little sleep won’t harm you, but it can weaken your immune system. The biggest problem is you usually don’t realize it because you’re not aware of the signs. When we sleep, our T cells or white blood cells function better than when we’re sleep-deprived, which means that getting a good night’s sleep can help us fight off an infection. Several studies show that if you get about seven to eight hours of sleep every night, you feel better, and you fight off any illness quicker – which means a healthier immune system.
High Levels of Stress Can Cause a Lower Immune System
It’s normal to have a bit of stress in your daily life. You might be trying to go to school or working a full-time job. You might have both of these factors on your plate and also have a family that needs you. It seems that you never have any alone time, which can make you feel even more stressed.
When you’re stressed out, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol. This action usually isn’t a problem because this hormone can help you remain healthy as it helps ward off inflammation when necessary. The issue starts when you have chronic high levels of stress, as this leads to too much inflammation in your body, which can cause your body to struggle to fight off illness. The key is to limit the amount of stress you feel through self-care strategies, such as taking a walk, mediation, or Yoga.
You have heard many times the importance of exercise in your lifestyle. Most experts say that you should at least exercise for 20 minutes every day, but most people think it should be a little longer. It doesn’t matter if you go for a walk, run, or hit the gym for some time. The key is to ensure you make room for exercise daily.
Living a lifestyle without much movement will weaken your immune system, but it will also cause your heart and other organs to start declining. Of course, this will make you sick often with limited energy to try to make yourself feel better by incorporating more exercise into your life. If you don’t exercise much, you want to start small, such as walking or biking.
To get the benefits of a plant-based diet, you need to stay consistent in your meal planning. This idea doesn’t mean that you won’t start feeling certain benefits, such as more energy, merely decreasing your animal-based food products, and eating more fruits and vegetables. However, to feel the full effects, you will want to continue reducing any meat and dairy.
Consistency is not always a person’s strongest point – especially when dealing with food cravings that you can’t have on this diet. But there are many factors you can incorporate to help improve consistency. For instance, you can develop a game plan before you eat out, begin your diet and new exercise routine at the same time, keep all non-plant based foods out of your home, start with realistic expectations, and don’t settle for an “all or nothing” approach.
Another tip to help you succeed on a plant-based diet from the first time you start begins the process gradually. Instead of setting a date or waking up one morning and telling yourself, “Starting today, I will only eat plant-based foods” you want to focus on one main goal (going full plant-based) and then have smaller milestones underneath that goal.
For example, you can start by making small changes like setting certain days where you only eat plant-based foods. This method will give you time to get used to the behavior and notice how your body changes during this time. For instance, do you find yourself feeling hungry sooner, or do you feel full longer? You can also start by cutting certain foods out of your diet slowly, such as limiting junk food and then meat.
It’s easy to set up goals that you think you can achieve, especially when you’re excited about the change in your lifestyle, you want to lose weight fast, or you need to improve your health as quickly as possible because your last doctor visit didn’t go well. However, making unrealistic goals can make you feel like a failure when you don’t reach them, and this can cause you to feel like you can’t follow through with the plant-based diet.
To set attainable goals, consider how much weight you want to lose and how long it will take you to lose the pounds in a comfortable period. You don’t want to make the goal too easy, but you need to be realistic. For instance, to stay on the healthy side of losing weight, you should focus on losing one to two pounds a week.
There Are Many Other Ways to Help Change Your Diet
Other than the methods already discussed, you can also use the reward system. You don’t want to let yourself fall into a guilt trip or get angry when you make a mistake. Instead, focus on how well you are doing as this will further increase your motivation. You can also get a buddy to help you stay on track. For instance, maybe you and a friend want to eat healthier or want to lose weight. You can keep each other accountable for what you eat and how much you exercise.
You can also plan your meals and start tracking your meals. If you’re counting carbs or want to make sure you get all the servings that you need in your day, you can download a variety of apps to help you keep track. When you look for ways to help keep yourself in the right mindset to eat this diet, you want to focus on ways to help you stay on track.
Ginger is One of the Best Foods For Your Plant-Based Diet
There are many great foods that you can eat on this diet, but one of the best that you want to ensure you add daily is ginger. You might have grown up sipping on a ginger ale when you were sick and still focus on this product to help make you feel better because it’s known to work. While this is the right choice, if you’re ill and needing a bit of soda, you want to think outside of this box for the plant-based diet.
You want to look at the whole food source of ginger and add it to your various meals. For example, you can add a little ginger to your tea, soups, or casseroles. You can also look at any recipes that focus on the food to help you get a healthy start at adding ginger to your diet.
For some people, garlic is best known to help keep the vampires away. Others will eat it, so they don’t have to kiss someone at the end of a bad date. It also has another great benefit, helping to decrease inflammation in your body and make your plant-based meals taste even better.
For centuries, people have turned to this ingredient to help them fight off colds, and while it’s known as an old’s wives tale – science proves that it’s true. You don’t have to add a lot of it to your meals, especially if you also add other ingredients like beets or turmeric. But by ensuring that your food has garlic, you’re adding the particular compound of alliin, which helps boost your immunity.
Two more ingredients that you want to make sure you add to your meal plan are beets and turmeric. One of the best foods to improve the health of your gut is beets. Not only are they known to improve an athlete’s performance, but they can also boost your brain health, freshen your breath, regulate your blood pressure, help you fight off certain cancers, and keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Turmeric is another spice that can easily be added to most of your favorite meals to help you fight off infection in your body and boost your immune system. It has a compound called curcumin, which tends to activate T cells and other pathogen-fighting cells in the body. In response, your body can get your feeling better quicker.
Mushrooms are known as a superstar when it comes to improving your gut health. Not only do activate the famous T cells that help fight off infections, but they’re also high in vitamin D. Plus, there are many types of mushrooms that you can choose to add to your dishes. For instance, you can include white button mushrooms into your salad or oyster mushrooms into your soup.
You can also grill or sear mushrooms to give them a different flavor when adding them to your cooked food. While fresh mushrooms from a Farmer’s Market is always best as they have the most potent taste, you can also freeze them and get the same benefits. The key is to cut and sear them before you freeze them, so they’re not mushy when thawed.
This article has a lot of mention about fruits and vegetables for your plant-based diet, but you can also start your day off with a tasty hot bowl of oatmeal or even add them to your meal. This ingredient is an integral part of the plant-based diet because they’re great for weight loss, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and digestion.
They are full of fiber, which is excellent for your immune system, but they also have zinc, which helps you fight off infections faster. They’re known as natural killer cells because they help build up the T cells that you need to beat the illness inside your body.
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“7 Ways to Get Your Diet off to a Good Start.” Kathleen M Zelman, Web MD.
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“7 Plant-Based Foods to Boost Your Immune System Naturally.” Mama Sezz.
“What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it?” Katherine D. McManus, Harvard Health Publishing. September 2018.
“Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet.” Forks Over Knives. January 2017.
“The Right Plant-Based Diet For You.” Harvard Health Publishing. January 2018.