Monday, August 11, 2014

Nutrition for Immune Health

As an athlete, catching a case of the flu, or even a cold, can really set you back.  Missing practices, workout, and/or competition is something that needs to be avoided…especially if it can be helped. 
There is no foolproof way to protect yourself from ever getting sick, but there are definitely some things you can do to help ward off illness.  Managing stress, getting plenty of sleep and staying active, along with a healthy balanced diet, including antioxidants, can help to increase your immunity to sickness. 
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that protect and repair damage to cells caused by free radicals in the body, resulting in a stronger immune system.


Taste The Rainbow

Foods high in antioxidants, often referred to as “super-foods,” should be incorporated in your diet as often as possible.  Lucky for you, the list of these super foods is very long!  Increase your intake of purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hued foods – i.e. berries, plums, peppers, raisins, red grapes, apples, sweet potatoes and squash – to give your immune system that extra power.  For even more of an immune boost, eat these foods raw or slightly cooked – overcooking can decrease their effectiveness.

Did you know?

Not only do antioxidants boost your immune function, they have also been shown to help in the fight against other damage caused by free radicals.  This damage may be related to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis.  They may even be beneficial in helping alleviate inflammation and joint pain – sound familiar?

Try out these recipes to easily incorporate more antioxidants into your diet:

Berry Trifle

Try this sweet treat packed
with antioxidants!

2 boxes of instant vanilla flavored pudding mix
4 cups of skim milk
1 premade Angel Food Cake, cubed
1 tub fat free whipped topping
16 oz bag of frozen mixed berries

Prepare pudding according to package directions.

In a large bowl, layer the ingredients in the following order:  ½ of the cubed cake, ½ of the pudding, ½ of the berries, ½ of the whipped topping.  Repeat a second time.

Veggie Dip

Use this quick and easy dip to make raw veggies more appetizing.

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
6 Tbsp low fat sour cream
1 packet of ranch dip mix

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  May be served right away, or chill for 1-3 hours prior to serving.
*Add cayenne pepper or any spices of your choice for variation.

**Increased immunity, better health, more vitamins and minerals, more fiber (keeps you full…and regular) and more energy = better performance**

Tara Boening is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian with a Board Certification in Sports Dietetics. She currently works as a sports nutrition consultant in Houston, TX.