There has never been a more important time to amp it up, give it all you’ve got and do what’s needed to bulletproof your immunity. Lucky for you, immunity is one of the systems that I geek out on and in this episode, I want to pass on to you what I know, with the whys and hows ’cause that’s what it comes down to – knowing exactly what you do to make it happen, right?
We are all living through this time of uncertainty, finding our way… and so many are feeling powerless but please know my loyal listener, that your choice is your inner superpower and when you know the whys and hows, you gain strength. Not only immune strength but the confidence that’s needed to make a power choice of what to eat, so a healthy peace of mind can follow.
Today on EAT THIS with Lianne… how to Bulletproof your Immunity. And if things sound a little different… here I am again in my closet… (next to my new yoga studio which is my mat next to my bed!)
First, let’s talk about your immune army. Yes, I refer to it as an army because that’s what it is… our greatest defender. So think of your immune system like an army of some generals, soldiers, snipers, and troops that all do their bit including a clean-up crew.
Have you ever heard of a test and received results that measure your white blood cell count? It tells your doctor and you, how strong your immune army is… as in the number of troops to be exact and it tells a story. More on that in a bit.
The generals of your army are called lymphocytes. You may have heard B cells and T cells and even NK or natural killer cells and they’re made in the liver and bone marrow from stem cells. Your front line defense are your Mast Cells and these guys hang out in your nose, eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and on your skin. Any opportunistic bacteria or virus or even pollen that wants in, must first make it past your mast cells. You may have experienced these troops if you’re an allergy sufferer like hayfever or you have a food allergy because these cells create the itching, redness, inflammation, and flushing that all can happen in a response to an allergic substance.
Other immune cells are called monocytes and macrophages and these troops are the clean-up crew like Pac Man going around collecting dots on the screen, and while you’d think that they have an easy time of it, swooping in after the immune challenge has been won, they work tirelessly to remove the carnage of battle and that includes cancer cells. So they are an essential part of the whole process, finishing off the job.
Have you ever worked super hard, done overtime at work or been flat our with something in your life? That’s what the immune system and army do when your body is under attack. They go at it like your life depends on it, and quite frankly, it does. Providing your army, at every level, giving to every troop, is essential to win the fight, no matter what’s got you – from cancer to a cold, rheumatoid arthritis to lupus, a seasonal flu or COVID-19, what you do or don’t do, what you eat or don’t eat, how you sleep or don’t sleep, all have an impact.
Ok, I don’t mean to get all heavy on you about this but know that your choices can make a difference. So let’s talk about what you can do to bulletproof your immunity, and no surprise here, let’s talk about the most impactful foods… those that work like the Bionic Man and Wonder Woman all rolled into one!
Top of the list are onions and garlic – they put the word anti- in front of all that matters here like antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory so add them to your soups, to your stir-fries, dips, dressings or just mix with butter and make garlic toast. On whole wheat bread… more about that in a moment.
You must know that I’m going to say fruits and vegetables next. Specifically, those bright berries and beets that are full of antioxidants called flavonoids and that are anti-inflammatory, fiber-rich and helps the immune contribution of your gut called the microbiome. EAT all the colours, all the time, AT WILL.
Leafy greens like kale, chard, watercress, spinach, and even broccoli give minerals and b-vitamins that take my third spot on the list. How about this… wilt a bunch of greens in a frying pan that has antibacterial coconut oil already melted and waiting for the green goods. Then add some garlic and anti-inflammatory ginger, maybe use a grater for both… stir that around for a minute or two until you have room in the middle to fry an egg. It’s high in protein and like Popeye eats spinach for those instant biceps, you’ve got a power bowl full of immune biceps!
Other foods to focus on are homemade broths – meat broth like I recommend and have a recipe for in my book, Sprout Right Family Food, bone broth or a veggie broth, that’s in there too. Broths offer nourishment in a way that gets to your gut, where about 80% of your immune system is. It also helps break down mucus, so that stuffy nose or cough needs you to drink it from a mug, use it as a base for soups or even make the baked risotto recipe also found in my book. Add in some antiinflammatory turmeric, a variety of mushrooms that help modulate the immune system which means amp it up or calm it down, and mushrooms also offer some vitamin D.
Sure, start your day with the orange juice that you love, but add in a real one too. What’s in your carton of juice really isn’t enough to do that much, because the real vitamin C is in the whole fruit whether that’s citurs or kiwi fruit. Or how about eating red, orange or yellow peppers, making some sweet potato fries – a recipe taht’s also in my book. Make a side of Salmon Cakes, bake some oily fish or have a tuna melt for those anti-inflammatory omega 3s and protein because, well, your immune system needs it.
Notice what I didn’t mention to eat… yea, the white stuff. Refined, packaged, and processed bread, cookies, cakes, pasta or pizza. I know I’ve just ruined your life as you know it. I also have not mentioned or encouraged you to eat any white sugar or chocolate, or candy. Sadly, the foods that you want, the foods that you crave are on the immune-suppressive hit list, so no, I’m going to keep it clean and just say no. It sucks, I get it. There are times when I want to eat it too, but if bulletproofing your immune system is what you want, avoiding the white stuff is key.
For sweetness find raw, unpasteurized honey. It actually supports the immune system. Manuka honey acts locally like your mast cells, killing what’s causing your sore throat, or at least giving it a helping hand. So sweetness is not entirely lost.
Oh and a special mention to alcohol… I know it’s a lifeline at times, and wine o’clock can be in some other timezone some days, it’s not on my bulletproof list, I’m really sorry. Oh, wait… having said that, if you heard episode 11 with Dr. Brockenshire, he shared his hot toddy recipe that acts as a vasodilator and he said it is anti-inflammatory so there you go, there’s your saviour.
In addition my list of foods to eat and not eat, there are some key nutrients that I’d recommend taking in a supplement form…
First, vitamin D. It helps your immune function so it’s crucial. Our immune cells have parking spots called receptors just for vitamin D and it’s not an easy vitamin to get enough of, so that’s why you need to a supplement. Vitamin K2 helps D find those parking spots to do what’s needed so any supplement you take needs to have that in it too. I’m talking 10,000 iu a day and giving the same to my kids, so while the usual recommendation is around 2000 iu a day, we need more right now.
Vitamin C, the one that I call the unsung hero is being used in a COVID-19 treatment cocktail in hospitals, so yes, it just went up the ranks in importance and impact. To take upwards of 2000 mg a day and not get loose stools (cause that’s what the body does if you take too much) you’ve got to take a buffered form. It allows you to take more, and with the research showing that not only vitamin C can shorten the duration of illness but also the severity, this is one to take more of than less.
Vitamins A, E; all the B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folic acid; and the minerals zinc and copper give your army the help it needs to produce those lymphocytes as needed, also increase NK cell activity and produce antibodies. Not enough of these and it would be like sending your troops to war while on a hunger strike!
And last but not least… a probiotic. With around 80% of your immune system hanging out in your gut, a probiotic ups the beneficial bacteria of your microbiome or gut bugs. This is such a sneaky way to give strength to your immunity. And no, eating yogurt or kefir isn’t enough. Dairy is also pro-inflammatory and mucus-forming, so at the sign of any immune challenge, ditch the dairy. Also, check here for my Immune Boost Package.
Have I blown your brains with all this? I really hope not. This could be an episode to revisit a time or two so this becomes known… like it sinks in so you can share it with someone else without getting your vitamin C’s D’s and B’s all mixed up.
A side mention further to food is sleep and exercise. Right now going for a walk, doing some inside yoga or a workout with all the soup cans that you stocked up on might be all you can do, so do it. Get to bed early without your screen or last glass of wine.
Do what you can, as much as you can, step by step and choice by choice. Know that any change that you make to what you’re doing right now is an improvement and don’t get down on yourself if something sneaks in. Luckily in another hour or two, you’ll have another chance to choose differently.
If snacking is your new hobby, head back an episode and listen to what I have to say about that. Let’s find our new normal together.
Thanks so much for listening in today. Pass this episode onto your loved ones, and all that need this, which is basically all of us!
Try out these recipes to add to your immune-supportive choices.
Chicken Breasts with Cheesy Garlic Sweet Potatoes
Egg-free ~ Gluten-free ~ Nut-free ~ Wheat-free
My kids fight for the crispy sweet potatoes in this dish. When the cheese melts and mixes with the garlic, it’s a scrumptious combination alongside the chicken. Serve with steamed greens or my Lemony Green Beans (page 000).
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil, plus a splash for the chicken
1 teaspoon (5 mL) sea salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 mL) coconut oil
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch (5 mm) thick rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup (60 mL) grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Season the chicken with a splash of olive oil and the sea salt and pepper.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and sear the outside of the chicken breasts until slightly browned.
- Put the sliced sweet potato in a large bowl and add the 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil, garlic, and cheese. Toss to coat.
- Spread the sweet potato evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Place the browned chicken breasts on top of the sweet potato.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sweet potato is fork-tender and browned at the edges.
- Divide among 4 plates and serve.
This dish is a good source of calcium and vitamin A.
Dairy-free ~ Egg-free ~ Gluten-free ~ Nut-free ~ Wheat-free
This is a staple in my house. I always have a jar of this in my freezer for when someone has that scratchy-throat or itchy-back-of-the-nose feeling. You can use other noodles like rice spaghetti or wheat noodles instead of the soba if you choose.
8 cups (2 L) Meat Broth (page 000) or Vegetable Broth (page 000)
1 piece kombu seaweed
7 ounces (210 g) soba noodles
1 teaspoon (5 mL) sesame oil
1¼-inch (3 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
⅔ cup (150 mL) shiitake or button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 mL) light-coloured miso, such as white or shiro
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (optional)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- Pour the broth into a large pot and add the kombu. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard the kombu.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop the noodles into the water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are soft with a remaining bit of firmness when bitten. Drain and immediately toss with sesame oil. Set aside.
- Add the ginger, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic to the broth and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until opaque throughout, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, cover the pot with a lid, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Just before serving, stir in the miso paste (do not boil once miso is mixed in).
- Divide the soba noodles between 4 bowls and scatter green onion (if using) on top. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles, making sure that you divide the chicken and mushrooms evenly among the bowls.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds (if using) on top and serve.
- Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
This soup is high in immune-boosting nutrients, including antioxidants and protein.