Eat These Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Want to fight off that illness that’s spreading around the office or your child’s school? Aside from practicing good hygiene, boosting your immune system is a great way to start.

Your diet plays a part in strengthening your immune system. Sadly, too many of us don’t eat enough of the fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods we need to keep ourselves healthy year-round. You can’t just eat an orange or grapefruit and expect one quick burst of vitamin C to prevent a cold. A truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals over time, plus normal sleep patterns and a hefty dose of exercise.

With some exceptions, it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from your food rather than in pill form. Here are some tips for getting the top vitamins your immune system needs to perform.

Vitamin C

You probably know about vitamin C’s connection to the immune system, but did you know you can get it from much more than just citrus fruits? Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya are also excellent sources. In fact, vitamin C is in so many foods that most people may not need to take supplements unless a doctor advises it.

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E can be a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection. Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are all high in vitamin E. So are spinach and broccoli if you prefer to increase your intake through meals rather than snacks.

Vitamin B6

This important vitamin — part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in your body — is critical in how your immune system functions. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish such as tuna, baked potatoes and chickpeas. Bring on the hummus!

Vitamin A

For vitamin A, go colorful. Foods that are high in colorful compounds called carotenoids — carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash — are all great options. The body turns these carotenoids into vitamin A, and they have an antioxidant effect to help strengthen the immune system against infection.

Vitamin D

As mentioned above, it’s best to get most of your vitamins from food, but vitamin D may be the exception to that rule. You can increase your intake through foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals. Many people have a hard time absorbing vitamin D from food, so if you have a vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about supplements.

Folate/folic acid

Folate is the natural form, and folic acid is the synthetic form, often added to foods because of its health benefits. To get more folate, add more beans and peas to your plate on a regular basis, as well as leafy green vegetables. You can also get folic acid in fortified foods (check the label) such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and other 100 percent whole-grain products.

Iron

Iron, which helps your body carry oxygen to cells, comes in different forms. Your body can more easily absorb “heme iron,” which is abundant in lean poultry such as chicken and turkey, plus seafood. But never fear, vegetarians: You can get other forms of iron in beans, broccoli and kale.

Selenium

Selenium seems to have a powerful effect on the immune system, including the potential to slow the body’s over-active responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer. You can find it in garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, brazil nuts and barley, among other foods.

Zinc

You can find zinc in oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans (skip the kind with added sugar), yogurt and chickpeas. Zinc appears to help slow down the immune response and control inflammation in your body.

Bonus Tip: When You Can’t Eat Fresh, Eat Frozen

Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, you can’t always get your hands on high-quality fresh produce. Keep this in mind: Frozen is fine. Manufacturers freeze frozen fruits and veggies at “peak” ripeness, which means they’ll pack a similar nutritional value as their fresh counterparts. Just choose plain frozen foods rather than those with added sugars or sodium.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

Early Alzheimer’s Linked to Brain ‘Leakage’

People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may have more “leaks” in the barrier that separates the brain from the bloodstream, a small study suggests.

Known as the blood-brain barrier, it’s made up of tightly joined cells that line blood vessels in the brain. They form a filtration system that allows certain essential substances — such as water and sugar — into the brain, while keeping potentially damaging substances out.

The new study adds to evidence that leaks in the blood-brain barrier are detectable in Alzheimer’s patients.

But it’s not clear what it all means.

“They don’t know whether this leakage is a result of the disease, or a cause of it,” said Dr. Ezriel Kornel, an assistant clinical professor of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York City.

It’s also unclear exactly what is happening in the leaky areas spotted on patients’ brain scans, according to Kornel, who wasn’t involved in the study.

In theory, he said, the leaks could be opening the door for toxic substances to enter the brain — but the study doesn’t prove that.

“It’s an interesting issue,” said David Morgan, director of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. Morgan also wasn’t involved with the current study, but reviewed its findings.

Researchers know that the pathological brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s begin at least 15 years before symptoms appear, Morgan explained.

First, there is an abnormal buildup of proteins called amyloid. There are no immediate symptoms because the brain is able to compensate for those protein deposits, Morgan said.

Eventually, though, another type of abnormality appears — twisted fibers of a protein called tau. Symptoms typically arise not long afterward, according to Morgan.

So, the question — according to Morgan — is where in that sequence of events does brain leakage occur?

The findings are based on 16 patients who’d been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease, and 17 healthy adults the same age. Walter Backes and colleagues at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, used a special MRI technique to detect areas of brain leakage in each study participant.

In general, the investigators found that Alzheimer’s patients showed more areas of leakage across the brain.

And, the more leakage the study participants had in the brain’s gray matter, the worse they did on tests of memory and other mental abilities. (Gray matter basically acts as the brain’s information-processing center.)

It’s plausible, Morgan said, that a compromised blood-brain barrier could contribute to Alzheimer’s — by allowing certain cells from the bloodstream to “infiltrate” the brain and contribute to inflammation and nerve cell damage, for example.

If that’s true, there is no obvious way to intervene.

But both Morgan and Kornel pointed to a possible “silver lining” in the leaky-brain situation. Normally, the blood-brain barrier blocks medications and other systemic therapies from getting into the brain.

“So if Alzheimer’s patients do have a leaky blood-brain barrier, in a strange way, that could be a good thing,” Morgan said. “Some therapies that are under development might have a better chance of working.”

Backes and his colleagues also raise the possibility that MRI scans could help diagnose Alzheimer’s early, by detecting leaks.

But Morgan had doubts. For one, he said, the researchers only reported on averages across the two study groups: If only some Alzheimer’s patients show excess brain leakage, it would not be a reliable way to detect the disease.

Plus, Morgan said, it’s possible that people with other forms of dementia, or other neurological diseases, may also have more leaks in the blood-brain barrier.

The study was published online in the journal Radiology.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Ham and Pineapple Pizza Toast

Ingredients

2 slices whole-grain bread
1/4 onion, shredded
1-1/2 slices ham, cut into strips
2 slices pineapple, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 tbsp thousand island salad dressing
50 g mozzarella cheese, grated

Method

  1. Cut each piece of bread diagonally into 2 pieces.
  2. Bake bread triangles in a 180ºC oven until golden brown.
  3. Spread salad dressing on the toast.
  4. Place ham, onion, pineapple and cheese on the toast. Bake in the preheated 180ºC oven until the cheese is partly melted. Remove and serve.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Home-cooked Breakfasts


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