During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting your immunity is more important than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who have a well-balanced, nutritious diet tend to be healthier and have a stronger immune system with a lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. Studies have even shown that a healthy diet can reduce your risk for some types of cancer.
What factors can affect our immune system?
There are a number of factors that can have a negative impact on our immune system, including aging, lifestyle choices, such as smoking and excessive alcohol, stress, chronic disease and poor diet. Some factors, such as aging, are beyond our control; however, when it comes to proper nutrition, we can make positive choices that will help boost immunity.
As we age, our immune system can become less effective; in many cases, this decline is worsened by poor nutrition. Research has also shown that a poor diet can result in obesity and actually increase one’s risk for disease or chronic illness. Conversely, eating a variety of fresh, unprocessed, plant-based foods provides the vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants your body needs to keep your immune system functioning at its highest level. Drinking enough water and cutting down on or avoiding sugar, fat and salt significantly lowers your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Can I still eat the foods I love – especially over the holidays?
Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS) has a team of 12 registered dietitians, all of whom have the CSO (Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition) certification,
and who provide education, support and nutritional counseling for cancer patients, including how to adapt favorite family recipes to make them more healthy. They offer the following tips for healthy holidays:
• Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Water is not only essential; it also helps you feel fuller. Often, if you are hankering for a snack, drinking a glass of water will quell or delay cravings.
• Eat fresh, unprocessed foods every day. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans), nuts and whole grains.
• Raw vegetables are great for snacks or holiday parties, and, if you just must have a dip, consider using hummus, guacamole or a dip made from low-fat yogurt, lentils, white beans or even nuts. You can find lots of great recipes on the Internet.
• Choose white meat and fish, which are generally lower in fat than red meat.
• Avoid trans fats, which are often found in processed food, fast food, fried food, frozen food, pies, cookies, etc.
• Eat less salt and sugar; choose healthy snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
You can also adapt your favorite holiday recipes by substituting healthier choices for the recipe ingredients.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Cream of Wild Rice Soup – Substitute blended white beans, instead of heavy cream, to provide thickness.
• Sweet Potato Casserole – Instead of canned sweet potatoes and marshmallows, use fresh sweet potatoes and honey with a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon.
• Ambrosia – Use pineapple, oranges, apples and bananas to provide lots of vitamin C; top with toasted almonds and coconut to make this a delicious, healthy dessert.
• Green Bean Casserole (a holiday classic) – Instead of canned cream of mushroom soup, sauté fresh mushrooms and make your own white sauce using skim milk.
• Lemon Cheesecake – Can be made with reduced-fat cream cheese; lemon zest adds lots of flavor and aroma.
• Pumpkin Mousse or Pudding – A delicious alternative to pie; sprinkle ginger snap crumbles on top for texture.
TREATMENT CLOSE TO HOME
Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) has a network of expert, Board-certified physicians who bring world-class cancer treatments to local communities, both large and small, across the state in nearly 100 locations. FCS is on the leading edge of clinical trial research, which provides patients access to the newest, most innovative treatments.
Florida Cancer Specialists treats patients with all types of cancer, and offers a number of services, such as an in-house specialty pharmacy, an in-house pathology lab and financial counselors at every location, that deliver the most advanced and personalized care in your local community.
Florida Cancer Specialists
For more information, visit FLCancer.com
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