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HomeNewsHealthA Plant-Based Diet To Support Your Immune System, Part 2

A Plant-Based Diet To Support Your Immune System, Part 2

St. Luke’s Clinic – Lifestyle Medicine

The single biggest predictor of a healthy gut is PLANT DIVERSITY: Aim for 30 plants a week. Eat the rainbow of colors for your fruits and veggies. Whole grains are an excellent of prebiotic fiber.

Whole-grain consumption is linked to lower rates of diabetes, healthy body weight, lower risk of stroke, and lower rates of colorectal cancers. Eat legumes, such as beans and lentils! There are literally hundreds of studies showing the benefits of beans. Legumes are considered longevity foods essential for good gut health.

1 cup of beans = 7 grams of fiber and 1 cup of lentils = 16 grams of fiber

Limit use of overt fats and oils: Having a high intake of fats and oils can hinder your body’s immune response. Avoiding processed foods will help you achieve the goal of reducing your fat intake. You can also use broths or water while cooking to reduce oils and fat. Try steaming foods instead of frying and try substitutions for fat (think butter or oil) such as applesauce, nut butters, dates, and mashed banana when baking.

If you are wanting to kick your immune system response up due to the COVID pandemic, recent antibiotic use or recent illness, here are some foods that can help:

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, sourdough bread, and kombucha.

The drop in pH resulting from the bacteria growing preserves the food by killing the pathogenic bacteria and promoting bacteria that is protective. It’s like we mimic what is happening in our gut. For thousands of years this was one of the primary ways food was preserved. Since the invention of refrigerators, freezers, pasteurization, and canning – pasteurization has been marginalized.

Aim for at least two cups a day of leafy greens—more is better! They offer the maximum benefit for the least amount of calories. Kale contains the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, which help with eye health. Collard greens help lower cholesterol due to their bile acids. Just one cup of cooked spinach has 36% of recommended daily iron, 11% of your protein needs, 4 grams of fiber, calcium magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Bok choy is loaded with minerals like iron and zinc, magnesium and vitamin K. Arugula is full of cancer-fighting compounds called sulphoraphanes. Romaine is loaded with Vitamin A and C, which are great for skin and collagen building.

Berries! Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries have anti-cancer properties due to their ability to counteract, reduce and repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and arugula produce an antioxidant called glutathione that can be used by the body to support the immune system. They reduce the level of pathogenic bad bacteria in the gut and limit bacterial endotoxins, help protect against air pollutants, and shut down pro-inflammatory pathways. All that and they improve cognitive function and mood!

Omega 3’s Super Seeds, such as chia, hemp and flax, are rich in fiber. Hemp is also a good source of protein. Mushrooms accelerate immunoglobulin A secretion, which acts as a mucosal defense in the gut border. They act as an anti-inflammatory agent when consumed regularly. Always cook mushrooms – agaritine, a potential carcinogen, is destroyed when cooking.

Aromatics such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, chives and scallions are allium vegetables that are packed full of vitamins and prebiotic fiber. When garlic and onions are chopped or crushed, an enzyme called alliinase is activated and converts allicin into allicin – it takes approximately 10 minutes for this to happen. Allicin is a compound that is antifungal, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antiviral. Seaweed such as nori, kelp, kombu, wakame, and spirulina increase the replication of T cells, which are an important part of our immune defense against viruses.

Are you hungry yet? Consider this when shopping: Consuming locally grown food, within 100 miles of home, is preferable, as it is picked at peak nutrition value and does not have far to travel. Non-local food is picked before it is fully ripe, then transported an average of 1500 miles from the farm to the store in environments that lower the food’s nutritional value. Produce begins to lose its nutrients within 24 hours of being picked.

It is recommended to check with your medical provider before beginning a new exercise or dietary routine. To find a doctor or to learn more about our dietitians and clinical nutritional services, contact the St. Luke’s Center for Community Health at (208) 727-8733 or visit stlukesonline.org.

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