High50 is delighted to welcome Jeannette Hyde, author of the best-selling book: The Gut Makeover:4 Weeks to Nourish Your Gut, Revolutionise Your Health and Lose Weight as our new resident nutritionist. Every week Jeannette will be telling us how we can eat our way to better health. She’ll tell us how to boost our immune systems and improve our stamina and energy levels as we cope with all the changes our bodies are going through. Please tell us in any areas of nutrition you’d like to see Jeannette covering.
Should you take supplements in winter if you are 50+? Proceed with caution, says Jeannette
5 ways to boost your immune system as autumn kicks in…
Do you eat a massive range of brightly-coloured vegetables every day (a kilo or so)? Does your daily diet include fermented foods such as sauerkraut or fermented milk kefir and do you chew every mouthful at least 20 times? If you said no to most of those, let’s see if we can do something about those before starting to pill pop.
I’ll explain why those actions would, in my opinion, be some of your best options for a strong immune system in winter to ward off colds and flu. Eating real food means all the elements working together for optimum health and supplementing it with pills is only a cheap imitation.
Eat Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables and fruit (which I call plants) contain fibres and colours, which contain powerful plant chemicals, needed for good health. In The Gut Makeover I explain how eating a ‘rainbow of plants’ every day provides food for the good bacteria in your gut. This bacteria, the “microbiome” in your colon which weighs about a kilo and a half (three pounds in the average person), needs to be fed the right stuff to thrive. When the right bugs are flourishing, they send signals to your immune system to protect you. Simple isn’t it? A good way to get extra plants into you every day: try to have a soup before your main course at dinner (eg rich colours are best such as beetroots, dark green leafy vegetables, squash, pumpkin). As we get older, our microbiome becomes less diverse, so it is really important to keep it topped up daily with a big range of plants.
Eat Fermented Foods
I love fermented milk kefir, a staple in Eastern Europe. A glass contains billions of live bacteria to plant in your gut and boost your gut bacteria to aid your immune system. You can find kefir in Polish corner shops and the Eastern European section of big supermarkets or make your own. Organic versions are available in big health food stores and from Ocado. Have a glass at breakfast blended with a banana and a handful of flax seeds for a good start to the day.
Part 1 on making fermented milk kefir
This is one of the easiest things you can do to boost your immune system: chew each mouthful properly. This means your food will get broken down better. Undigested particles of food reaching the colon can lead to an imbalanced microbiome, and weaker immune system.
Eat Bitter Leaves
Eat a bitter leaf salad for a starter, e.g. rocket, radiccio leaves, chopped grapefruits. The bitter taste helps trigger the release of acid in the stomach so that you break the food down more effectively and extract the vitamins and minerals from them. You could have the best diet in the world, but if your digestion is below par, you can get sick because you aren’t extracting the nutrients properly. This is really important for a healthy immune system. As we get older we produce less stomach acid so this can become a real problem if we don’t use the right foods to keep it working well.
The one supplement I would recommend in winter is vitamin D. We get a little from food, but not enough, and if you live in the UK where there is little sunshine in winter (our main source), your vitamin D levels are likely to be low. Vitamin D is absolutely essential to a strong immune system, healthy bones, teeth and mood. I like using Vitamin D3 in drops as this makes it is easy to absorb, and if mixed with K2, helps uptake of calcium into the bones (from all that kefir you’ve been drinking!). Follow dosage on the bottle or ask your GP.
Buy her recipe book from Amazon now: The Gut Makeover Recipe Book
See High50 related articles: Why we need to eat bitter foods