Power Up Your Immunity for Better HealthPower Up Your Immunity for Better Health

By Dr. Mao, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D, Dipl. C.H., ABAAP

Help your body help you. Building your immune system and keeping it strong is a surefire strategy for living a long, healthy life. Get a big immune boost with one simple habit: eat 5 to 9 servings of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetable every day. Embrace this practice consistently and by the end of a month, it will become a new healthy habit that will serve you for years to come!

Get 5 to 9 fruit and vegetable servings every day

Here’s why: By now, you have probably heard that the new USDA recommendation for optimal health is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables of all colors. The countries with the highest amount of centenarians eat very large portions of vegetables and consume almost none of our modern packaged foods. These centenarians live to a ripe old age in surprisingly good health, suffer from very little heart and liver disease and show limited instances of cancer and degenerative diseases.

A few tips: Eat foods of all colors--red, yellow, green, white, and dark green--to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients and optimize your body’s immunity. Also, go organic when possible and always clean your vegetables well. Buy what’s in season for the best taste, best nutrition, and the best price.

Take an herbal aid: Taking an herbal supplement can also help increase your immunity to protect against pathogens. My family’s herbal formula Perpetual Shield includes white mulberry twig and black sesame seed to increase your ability to recover from illnesses and protect you from getting sick.

Top immunity food picks: broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, cabbage, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, bell peppers, mushrooms, chives, garlic, leeks, daikon radishes, citrus fruits, and berries.

Simple ways to fit in produce servings

First of all, what is a serving? It depends on the food and the preparation method, but a good rule of thumb is that one serving is what you can fit into a single cupped hand. Here are some tips to add more produce servings into your day:

  • Sprinkle berries or sliced fruit on your morning cereal.
  • Add broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, or other veggies to your scrambled eggs.
  • Add tomato, greens, and sprouts to any sandwich.
  • Try new salad combos and don’t be afraid to add fruit. How about spinach, apples, raisins, walnuts, and celery?
  • Sautéing or steaming greens is a simple way to prepare immune-boosting greens--collards, Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more. Drizzle with olive oil and herbs and enjoy!
  • You can fit numerous vegetable servings in a soup, stew, or stir fry dish. Save yourself some time by cooking in bulk and freezing for later.
  • Shred carrots or zucchini into casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
  • Fruit is a wonderful dessert. Stew pears with cinnamon or serve baked apples with walnuts and raisins.

Stay on track

To stay on course, ask yourself these questions each day. Keeping a written record of daily answers will help you stay motivated.

  • Are you eating at least five servings of fruit and veggies every day? What has the experience been like for you?
  • How do you feel today compared to the previous day? How about to one week ago? You may feel stronger, more energized, and less prone to seasonal illness.
  • What obstacles are keeping you from eating at least 5 fruit and vegetable servings every day? What can you do to remove the barrier?

Make it happen! An answer for every excuse

  • Miss a day? Sometimes during a busy week, you may miss a day or two. Do not think this means you are a failure! Forgive yourself and ponder the reasons for missing a few days. What could you do differently for more successful results? Then recommit, make adjustments, and continue where you left off. Don’t ever give up!
  • Too much work. Anyone who has had the experience of opening their fridge and being greeted by a moldy tomato knows that produce can require some planning; but it does not have to be a lot of work, especially nowadays when there are pre-cut vegetables, bagged lettuce, and other conveniences being sold in markets. The serving tips above can help you introduce produce fairly easily into your usual meals. Start small if need be. Begin with just 2 different veggies and 1 fruit, learn some recipes, and before you know it, you’ll be up to 5 a day.
  • Too expensive. There is a common myth that healthy eating costs a lot of money. It all depends on how you look at it. Which will cause you more expensive health problems down the road: wholesome foods or packaged foods? Wholesome fruits and vegetables may cost more now than a colorless (and nutrition-less) instant meal, but you are investing in your long-term health and long-term immunity! Also, it can be helpful to buy a little extra of what’s on sale today and freeze some for later. Or--how about growing your own produce?

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!

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