We are in the midst of flu season, which means now is the time to start thinking about our immune systems and what steps we can take to protect our aging loved ones from all the nasty germs going around. According to Sova Healthcare, seniors aged 65 and over have a much greater risk of developing complications from the flu because their immune systems have become weaker with age. Additionally, the CDC reports that an estimated 70-90% of flu-related deaths have been among those aged 65+, making flu vaccines an invaluable first line of defense for older adults. But, if you and your loved one have already received your flu vaccine for the year, then you might be wondering what other steps you can take to help give your immune systems an added layer of protection. Thankfully, we can look to mealtime as a great opportunity for boosting our immunity by focusing on specific nutrients found in some of our favorite foods!
Power Up With Some Of Your Favorite Immunity Boosting Foods!
Because our immune systems protect us from the flu or other viral invaders that make us sick, we need to boost our immunity by feeding our bodies with the right kind of armor that keeps our systems in tip-top shape. In addition to staying up-to-date on vaccines, adding certain foods to our diets can help us build a strong immune system fit for fighting off bacteria and viruses, making it so we can remain healthy caregivers for our loved ones while limiting the risk of transmission.
Some natural power-ups that act as fuel for our bodies include beta carotene, zinc, probiotics, protein, and, of course, vitamins C and D. Each of the nutrients and vitamins pack a powerful punch when it comes to building up our body’s natural defense system – AND, we can find each of these in some of our favorite foods, which makes boosting our immune systems deliciously easy! Check out this road map with information from the Mayo Clinic that tells you exactly where to find these much-needed sources of immunity-boosting nutrition:
What It Does For Your Immmunity:
Carrots; dark-green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and green leaf lettuce; sweet potatoes, broccoli; cantaloupe; and winter squash.
Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy eyes and skin. A lack of vitamin A may cause a rare condition called night blindness (problems seeing in the dark). It may also cause dry eyes, eye infections, skin problems, and slowed growth.
Lean red meats, such as beef; seafood (especially herring and oysters); peas, beans; wheat germ, nuts, and tofu.
Zinc helps your immune system and metabolism function. Zinc is also important to wound healing and your sense of taste and smell. A lack of zinc may lead to poor night vision and wound healing, a decreased sense of taste and smell, and a reduced ability to fight infections.
Active-culture dairy products, such as yogurts and cheese; kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut; Kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
Often referred to as “friendly” or “good” bacteria, probiotics help keep the normal healthy balance of bacteria in your gut — specifically the lining of the gut, which includes the microbiome. Probiotics help digestion, boost the immune system, contribute to blood sugar levels, and may influence mental health.
Comes from animal and plant sources, including milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils
Proteins are made of amino acids. These compounds help turn T cells, B cells, and antibodies (main players in your immune system) into germ fighters that spot and kill harmful cells that enter your body before they can start an infection.
Citrus fruits and berries; potatoes; tomatoes and peppers; cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a nutrient your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.
Is not naturally found in many foods, but you can get it from fortified milk and cereal, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs for building and maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties that support immune health, muscle function, and brain cell activity.
The MIND Diet: Great For Your Immunity & Better For Your Brain Health!
Enjoying a well-rounded diet is essential for everyone. Plus, ongoing studies are finding that certain diets can not only add an extra boost to our bodies’ immune systems, but they might also play a valuable role in promoting brain health.
In fact, one specific diet, the MIND diet, has been gaining recognition for its emphasis on vitamin and nutrient-dense foods. According to the National Institute on Aging, the MIND diet has been shown to lower high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Furthermore, evidence supporting the MIND diet comes from observational studies of more than 900 dementia-free older adults, which found that closely following the MIND diet was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Did You Know?
Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging! We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.