Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ten Foods to Optimize Immunity

“A man may esteem himself as happy when that which is his food is also his medicine.”
­--Henry David Thoreau

Awareness about the need for much higher levels of Vitamin D than the routinely 'prescribed' 400 IUs has been simmering for a few years. Now, faced with one of the most challenging flu seasons ever – realization of what the endemic shortages of Vit. D really means is boiling over. In 2007 an article appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition calling for the “urgent need” to increase the requirements for Vit. D. “The range we are talking about – 1,000 IU a day – is still a small dose,” said Walter Willet, MD. Chairman of the Harvard School of Public Health's department of nutrition. Some suggest as much as 10,000 IU as the tolerable upper intake daily limit; a fair-skinned person can manufacture 15,000 IUs or more, of vitamin D in as little as 30 minutes of optimal sun exposure. Consider the obvious link between Vit. D, a fat soluble vitamin, which is sequestered in fat tissue, and the fact that 'chubby children' are most at risk for the current flu threat. Also at risk are those with otherwise healthy immune systems who routinely subsist on processed, refined carbohydrates, replete with sugar and white flour. These pro-inflammatory foods set the stage for the deadly 'cytokine storm' that characterizes the lethal, over-reactive immune response to the H1N1 viral onslaught.
These nutrient-dense, inflammatory-calming foods, oils, and herbs top the charts:
Cold-water, Wild-Caught Fish - Alaskan Salmon, and olive-oil packed Sardines are highest in Vit. D and rich in omega-3 fats, which are the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances available without a prescription. Also eastern oysters. Atlantic, farm-raised salmon is devoid of calming, anti-inflammatory Omega 3's.
Walnuts – Walnuts are rich in Omega-6 fats that help to produce anti-inflammatory hormones. Runners-up are almonds, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and all-natural (unprocessed, nut butters). Popular supermarket peanut butter contains hydrogenated oils which are pro-inflammatory.
Flax Seed Oil – Rich in Omega 3's and highest in alpha linolenic oil, both are highly anti-inflammatory. Flax goes rancid quickly. Combine with olive oil, lemon, and drizzle over greens. Sprinkle crushed flax seeds over salads and into morning oatmeal. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Wherever flaxseeds become a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.”
Tumeric - Dr. Art Ayer says that cucumin, the active ingredient in turmericc, “cures cytokine storms.” (http://diseases-viruses.suite101.com/article.cfm/swine_flu_cytokine_storm_cures) Curcumin was found to be pharmacologically safe in human clinical trials with doses up to 10 g/day. A phase 1 human trial with 25 subjects using up to 8000 mg of Curcumin per day for 3 months found no toxicity from curcumin. Five other human trials using 1125-2500 mg of Curcumin per day have also found it to be safe. Runners-up are Tulsi tea, and neem.
In the words of Dr. David Frawley: “If I had only a single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs, I would without much hesitation choose the Indian spice turmeric.”
Turmeric Tea (Best ½ hr. before sleep)
2 cups water (or milk)1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric1 tablespoon maple syrupJuice of 1/2 lemon (or, ½ teaspoon ghee).Bring water to a boil, then add powdered herbs. If preparing with milk, gently heat but do not boil or scald milk. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain tea into a mug, add maple syrup and lemon (or ghee), stirring to combine. Drink warm.
Enjoy 2-3 cups of turmeric tea per day, but best 1/2 hr. before sleep. Women who are pregnant or nursing and sufferers of congestive heart failure, gallstones, or obstruction of the bile ducts should not take turmeric tea.
Berries - The darker the better. Try for fresh and local but blueberries and cherries freeze well. Elderberry extract can act as a preventative; known for it's powerful anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. Also, black currant juice (Currant C is especially delicious) is very high in protective anthrocyanidins (http://food-facts.suite101.com/article.cfm/blueberries_are_the_power_food_of_the_moment).
Dark Green Vegetables – are rich in Vitamin C that dampens inflammation. (Cooking destroys Vitamin C; but releases Vit A. and lycopene in tomatoes). Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, kale, and brussel sprouts replenish nutrients responsible for strengthening the cell membranes of the mouth, nose, and gut; the first line of defense against invading microorganisms.
Sweet Potato – A healthy complex carbohydrate, contains powerful anti-oxidants that help to heal inflammation. (Don't confuse with yams) . Delicious cut as 'fries' and roasted with olive oil, cumin and salt.
Olive Oil – important source of oleic acid, another anti-inflammatory. Helps absorb nutrients in raw vegetables. Extra Virgin, or cold-pressed are less processed than other types.
Quinoa – A gluten free 'grain,' is abundant in protein, with a delicate, nutty flavor that takes well to spices and welcomes vegetables. It's actually the seed of a green leafy plant. Preparation is as simple as quick-cooking rice.

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