6 Eating Habits That May Be Putting Your Immune System at Risk

Building up your immune system and keeping it healthy has always been important. But with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, it has become even more relevant. An effective vaccine is yet to be developed, so what we can do right now is to take care of our immunity.

One of the ways that you can do this is by consuming foods that help support immune function. Aside from that, you should also avoid certain eating behaviors that weaken your immunity⁠—no matter how much you enjoy them. Here are 6 of them:

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Drinking a glass of wine may be good for you as you get through this stressful crisis. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Drinking alcohol in excess may disrupt your immune system even in the short-term.

According to a paper that was published in the journal Alcohol Research, there have been observations that link excessive alcohol intake with a weakened immune response. Some of the effects include an increased risk of pneumonia and acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS). Both of which can impact your susceptibility to COVID-19.

Excessive alcohol intake means binge drinking or heavy drinking. Binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), means drinking four or more drinks at one occasion for women and five or more for men. Meanwhile, heavy drinking involves eight or more per week for women and 15 or more for men. The recommended intake should be one drink for women and 2 for men.

Drinking may be a good way to unwind, but too much can harm your immune system.

Going Overboard with The Salt

Too much sodium intake is usually associated with high blood pressure and fluid retention. However, a new study conducted among humans and mice by the University Hospital of Bonn has revealed that it can also lead to immune deficiencies. Too much salt may affect the kidneys and would eventually cause a domino effect that impacts the body’s ability to fight bacterial infections.

The advised daily limit for sodium for healthy adults is less than 2,300 mg per day, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The CDC states that more than 70% of sodium intake among Americans comes from processed food. A way to help reduce the need for more salt is to combine it with other seasonings.

Consuming Too Much Sugar

Cutting down on sweets is good for your mental health and immunity. Based on a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, humans who consumed 100 grams of sugar after an overnight fast have experienced unfavorable results. Their immune cells reduced their ability to engulf bacteria for about 1 to 5 hours.

However, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up sugar once and for all. Just stick to a limit, even if it’s only one meal. The American Heart Association recommends less than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons for men.

Cutting down on sugar not only benefits your immunity, but it will also improve your mood.

High Caffeine Intake

Coffee and tea can have health benefits. High levels of antioxidants in these popular drinks can be anti-inflammatory. However, too much caffeine can disrupt your sleep pattern. This may end up increasing the risk of inflammation and compromising immunity.

It’s better to cut off caffeinated drinks that are made with sugar and artificial sweeteners and no nutrients, just like soda and energy drinks. It’s recommended to avoid caffeine intake at least 6 hours before bedtime so you’ll still get that quality sleep.

Not Enough Fiber in Your Diet

Fiber is good for digestive health and can enhance both your mood and immunity. Research suggests increasing the intake of dietary fiber and probiotics. It helps strengthens your immune system and protects against viruses. Getting enough fiber also helps in getting better sleep. However, only a mere 5% of Americans get the recommended daily goal, which is at least 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

Whole foods are great sources of fiber. Make sure to pack on some vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds. Swap your usual lower-fiber processed foods for the fiber-rich unprocessed fare. You can exchange sugary cereal with a bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts or favor brown or wild rice over white rice.

Look for fiber-rich alternatives for your meals like oatmeal instead of sugar-packed cereals.

Skipping the Green Veggies

Green veggies provide vitamins A and C, which are key nutrients to help immune function, along with folate. These veggies offer bioactive compounds that help optimize immunity in the gut, where around 70 to 80% of immune cells are located.

On your next grocery run, make sure to grab green veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards, and bok choy. These can be consumed raw, stir-fried, sauteed, oven-roasted, or steamed.

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