Starting your day with the right kind of breakfast is like getting dressed to face a snowstorm. It’s about protecting yourself from harmful elements. A good breakfast can boost your immune system to optimize your natural defenses against infections, including fighting viruses that cause respiratory illnesses like the common cold, the flu, and even COVID-19.
Deciding what to eat for breakfast to support your body’s immune response should be as easy as deciding between winter boots or flip flops to wear on a snowy commute. A donut will provide about as much support to your immune system as flip flops will protect your toes from the cold. But eating an immune-friendly breakfast isn’t all about knowing what to avoid. In fact, not only is it possible to eat a meal that won’t undermine your defenses against infections, but you can also have one that makes them even stronger than normal.
According to Isa Kujawski, MPH, RDN, Functional dietitian-nutritionist and founder of Mea Nutrition, the best immune-boosting breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should contain key ingredients like oats, nuts and seeds, blueberries and cinnamon with a green tea side. Here’s How to Make an Anti-Infection Breakfast That You Can Eat Every Day, and to learn more about how to eat healthy, find out why you shouldn’t be wasting your money on these popular immune supplements that don’t work, say the experts.
“A good part of our immune system, around 70%, is located in the gut and is largely dependent on the health of our gut microbiota,” says Kujawski. “The dietary fiber in foods like oats feeds beneficial gut bacteria, which support the immune system and can also control bad bacteria. The complex carbohydrates in oats also provide a constant source of slow-burning fuel for the morning to fuel your day and keep you feeling full, ”she adds. Choose plain oatmeal, as flavored oatmeal is usually loaded with added sugars.
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Top this oatmeal with pumpkin seeds, nuts or chia seeds. Nuts and seeds like these are good sources of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and magnesium which all play central roles in immunity, says Kujawski. Studies indicate that iron and zinc, for example, are essential for the development of lymphocytes called B cells, the “special ops” unit of defense of the immune system that produces antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses.
Refueling with magnesium is also a good thing, as the mineral activates vitamin D in the body to boost the immune system. A study by researchers at the Mid America Heart Institute of Saint Luke in Kansas City suggests that increasing levels of magnesium and vitamin D may even help people with COVID-19 fight off the virus.
Another reason to eliminate nuts and seeds to pump up your oatmeal: their healthy fats can keep blood sugar levels stable. “Keeping blood sugar under control is important because too much sugar can disrupt the immune system, especially when blood sugar is chronically high,” says Kujawski. As an added bonus, starting the day with stable blood sugar can reduce the likelihood of craving sugary snacks later in the day, which can lead to weight gain. Read on to learn more about the # 1 snack for living longer.
Oats and nuts make a nice breakfast with an earthy taste, but you can sweeten it naturally by adding fruit. The dietician sweetens her oatmeal with blueberries, a powerful fruit loaded with antioxidants that boost the immune system, including the famous vitamin C that protects against disease. Nutrition Journal classified blueberries as having exceptionally high levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect your cells from damage by molecules known as free radicals.
Just a pinch or two elevates the humble oatmeal to another palatable level. But it does more. “Cinnamon has been shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties and also help lower blood sugar,” says Kujawski. In fact, a review of the studies on cinnamon in the journal Pharmacognosy research described the many ways the spice can protect the body, including by limiting brain changes induced by Alzheimer’s disease, reducing oxidative stress in the liver, increasing cardio-protective nitric oxide, and lowering blood blood pressure and cholesterol.
Wash that immune-boosting breakfast you just made with a tall cup of green tea. “Green tea is filled with compounds containing antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties,” Kujawski explains. “They fight infectious agents by increasing beneficial immune cells.”
What if you’re the type of person who is put off by the texture of oatmeal or prefers a more salty breakfast? Kujawski suggests making a sweet potato and sautéed egg hash with colorful vegetables like spinach, red pepper, garlic and mushrooms. Much like that potent oatmeal, this tasty meal will provide an abundant blend of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and fat to provide a constant flow of fuel while keeping blood sugar at bay.
Sweet potato is a rich source of beta carotene, which is known to improve immune function. Spinach contains antioxidants as well as vitamins C and E that support the immune system, while garlic is often touted for its antibiotic properties. Mushrooms have been reported to contain antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. “One thing to keep in mind,” Kujawski explains, “the health benefits of garlic can be degraded by cooking, so it’s best to add it at the end of cooking for more flavor. “
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