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February Nutrition Tip:

Optimizing Immune Function Through Daily Nutrition

It’s that time of year when we are slowing ramping up training as we leave another off-season behind. However, it’s also cold season. I thought it would be helpful to take look at foods that are important to incorporate into our daily diet to help keep us healthy as we increase our training volume.

Consume appropriate daily energy, stay hydrated and incorporate rest days into our training plan to help reduce the suppressive effect of endurance exercise on immune function.

Protein helps our bodies fight infection, heal, build and repair. Choose protein-rich foods that are high in iron and zinc like lean beef (grass fed ideally), poultry, legumes, lentils, pumpkin seeds, nuts, quinoa and eggs.

Eat antioxidant-rich foods that are high in vitamins A, C and E to help fight oxidative stress. Soups and smoothies are a great way to incorporate these foods. Choose foods like: sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, sunflower seeds, avocado, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, pineapple and oranges. Basically, your goal is to get as much COLOR as you can from fruits and veggies into your daily diet.

Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to combat inflammation. Great sources of omega-3’s are chia, hemp and flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon.

Vitamin D plays a great role in immune defense. Choose foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and look for vitamin D fortified foods like orange juice and milk. You may need to take a vitamin D supplement if your levels are low.

Prebiotic and probiotic foods enrich GI system and immune health. Include foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and fiber-rich foods like whole grains, bananas, onions and leeks.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Run Fast. Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.  See the link below to the recipe for Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes. They contain many immune boosting ingredients, are easy to make, and they keep in the freezer as a quick meal when you are in a time crunch.