The key to eating healthy is eating to lower your risk of illness and disease. The healthier your body and mind becomes, the more resistance you have to ailments both great and small. According to Harvard Medical School's Health Center, choosing health-promoting foods will boost your immune system's ability to fight off germs.
In this article, learn how to choose foods your heart will like and your immune system will benefit from.
How Your Body's Immune System Functions
Your body's immune system can be a formidable opponent. Imagine for a moment that you are a germ, and that you have decided to invade your body to introduce a sickness into your system.
According to BBC Science, in order to succeed in your mission, you will need to evade not only millions of front lines defender cells, but also a vicious rear guard made up B and T lymphocyte cells. There is one of you and zillions of them, and you must evade all of them in order to successfully plant your sickness and get out.
So with all this protection in place, how is it that you ever get sick at all? The truth is, your immune system is only as strong as your lifestyle and eating habits. Stress, genetics, diet, exercise, sleep, habits, personal hygiene - all of these factors and more can determine how well your immune system will do its job when the need arises.
Understanding the Whole Health Puzzle
Of course, choosing foods that are healthy is just one piece of the whole health puzzle. For instance, if you have a low carb plan but you still smoke every day, the benefits you get from your food will be reduced each time you take a puff.
And if you exercise daily but skip meals or eat fast food after a workout, you won't have to look very far to figure out why the desired weight loss continues to be elusive.
To give your immune system its best chance at repelling disease and illness and enjoy the best quality of life, you must look at healthy eating as part of a bigger lifestyle choice. This isn't easy (which is why many people can't seem to do it) but it is possible.
What It Means to "Eat for Your Heart"
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 610,000 people each year die from heart disease and heart attacks. This equates to approximately 25 percent of all deaths annually - a scary yet all-too-real statistic.
Your heart is a very powerful but also a very sensitive organ. It is also vital to both your health and your survival. It is easy to take your heart for granted - sometimes to even forget it is there! But you will remember quickly if your heart starts struggling to do its job well.
A heart-healthy eating system includes more than just including some foods and excluding others. According to the University of California Medical Center, these are the essential components of eating for your heart:
- Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, flax, nuts, oils).
- Eating plenty of fiber (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes).
- Eating colorful produce with lots of antioxidants, vitamins, trace minerals and essential nutrients (fruits, vegetables).
- Keeping saturated fats and trans fats out of your diet as much as possible.
- Keep sodium low.
- Keep sugars low (natural fruit sugars are okay).
- Keep cholesterol low (cholesterol only occurs in animal-based foods).
- Drink very moderately or don't drink.
- Take care with caloric intake to manage weight.
Only when you factor in each of these essential components will you be able to feel confident that you are truly choosing foods your heart will like and giving it what it needs to stay strong and fully functional for as long as possible.
Guest writer: Mikkie Mills