Did you know that you are breaking down your body when you run? It’s true, but don’t panic.
This is a good thing in many ways. You’re breaking down muscle and challenging your cardiovascular system so that you build the endurance and strength you need to complete part of the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend. However, this breakdown can cause a dip in your immunity and create some total body inflammation. This is especially true as you get into longer runs of 12 or more miles. Food is essential for post-exercise recovery, and it can also give your body essential building blocks to boost your immunity and keep you healthy during your training.
Here are some foods with proven immunity benefits that I recommend you include in your diet weekly.
- Citrus Fruits
- As we think about immunity, citrus is likely one of the foods that come to mind first, linked to Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that also supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin meaning your body can’t make it, so you must get it from food. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that keeps your immune system strong by protecting your body from free radicals. Vitamin C also supports the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes. These are cells that work to protect your body against infection.
- Not only do apples contain Vitamin C, but apple skin contains quercetin. Quercetin is a phytochemical that can support immune health and reduce inflammation. Don’t forget to eat the peel for these benefits. Apples are a great portable snack. As a dietitian, I try to get in an ‘apple a day’ for a midday snack that supports immunity and digestion. You could add diced apples to oatmeal and top with cinnamon for an ‘apple pie’ breakfast combination. Or add diced apples to a Waldorf-inspired salad using rotisserie chicken for a make-ahead lunch.
- Getting enough healthy fats in your diet can bolster your body’s immune response by decreasing overall inflammation. Low-level inflammation is common and is a typical response to injury or stress however, the concern is chronic inflammation, which can have a negative, suppressing effect on your immune system. Healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory; thus, the connection can be made that they will naturally fight illness by their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Salmon is high in omega-3s, so adding omega-3-rich seafood into your diet at least two times a week can support immune health. I top salmon filets with olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, and fresh lemon juice for a simple salmon dish. Bake salmon in a 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked to your desired level of doneness.
- Treat your gut well! Gut health and immune health are interconnected. Probiotics can help support a healthy digestive tract, so consider taking a daily probiotic or eating foods high in probiotics like yogurt with live, active cultures or fermented foods. Lactobacillus strains to look for that support digestive and immune health include L. brevis, L. casei, L. paracasei and L. salivarius. Kombucha is another way to get living probiotics into your diet, and I like to drink kombucha as an afternoon pick-me-up.
- Green tea
- A simple way to support your body’s immune system is by incorporating green tea into your daily routine. Green tea contains flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant. Green tea contains high amounts of the antioxidant ECGC, which has been shown to enhance immune function. As you enjoy your green tea, be mindful of added sugars and aim to enjoy the taste without sugar as often as possible.
- by Carissa Galloway, RDNCarissa Galloway is a Registered Dietitian and certified personal trainer with a diverse background in nutrition, fitness, and television hosting. In addition to hosting Bloom on WFLA NBC Tampa, Carissa is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert and has appeared nationally on E! TV, The Daily Buzz, CBS College Sports, and the Home Shopping Network both in the US and Australia. Carissa regularly appears in nutrition segments across the country. She is also a 6x marathoner and proud run-walk-run advocate who ran the 2019 Boston Marathon.