Guys it is time to take your health in your own hands and be aware of the ailments you are at risk for, so that you can take steps to lower your risks and increase your vitality.
Ladies, even though this one is for the men, the information relating to nutrition and immunity applies to us all. It is also great to be aware of these diseases so that you can give the men in your life a little nudge if you think that they are at risk.
Let’s first cover the serious stuff, and then we’ll get into nutrition.
It is well known that men have a lower life expectancy than women, the reasons being multi-faceted.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests that men tend to drink and smoke more than women; are more reluctant to seek help; and are more predisposed to certain health conditions.
Here is a list of diseases you (as a male) should be screened/tested for annually (depending on your age and the advice from your doctor):
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (between the ages of 65 – 75, especially if you are/were a smoker)
- Blood Cholesterol (above the age of 35)
- Blood Pressure (all ages)
- Colon Cancer (screen before you turn 50)
- Depression (screen depending on symptoms)
- Diabetes (screen if you have high blood pressure, severe thirst, frequent urination, unexpected weight loss, increased hunger, and/or tingling in the hands or feet)
- Hepatitis C Virus (screen if you were born between 1945 and 1965, if your mother had the virus, or if you have ever injected drugs)
- HIV (if you’re below the age of 65, regardless of perceived risks)
- Prostate Cancer (recommendations regarding screening vary widely; chat to your doctor about the options)
- Obesity (all should be screened for obesity using the Body Mass Index which is further validated with waist circumference, skinfold thicknesses, or bioelectrical impedance analysis).
Take some time to go through the list above with a doctor, but for the time being, let’s see how nutrition affects the immune system and the development of disease.
Diseases often present themselves as a result of a poor (or less than optimal) immune response. Many of the diseases listed above, can be caused or exacerbated by a nutritional imbalance, as nutritional imbalances can weaken the immune system.
If you are currently dealing with health issues it is important to try to improve your nutrition, as when the illness worsens it will become more difficult to nourish your body – a vicious cycle that is hard to break.
Nutritional immunology is one of my passions, using foods to boost the immune system is also a core principle in Best10’s meal plan development, as it is the study of understanding how nutrients and food components interact with, or influence, the immune response.
Malnutrition is no longer what we thought it was 20 years ago – “mal” in malnutrition simply means abnormal nutrition. Unbeknown to many, malnutrition includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting and underweight), micronutrient malnutrition (vitamin and mineral deficiencies or excesses), being overweight and obesity. So no matter what size you are or how much you eat/drink, you may be malnourished.
The best way to explain how nutrients affect immunity is that they are needed for the development, maintenance and expression of the immune response and serve as energy sources.
Phew! The above may be hard to process, but on the bright side, if you have a form of malnutrition, your immunity can be improved greatly through corrective nutrition.
As the famous Hippocrates once stated: “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
Here are some practical tips to improve your immunity through nutrition:
- Adopt a holistic nutritional approach
Include many functional foods in your diet such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Try to live a “Reducitarian lifestyle”
Try eating more than 5 servings of different fruit and veggies per day.
- Always opt for foods that are minimally processed.
For example, it is better to eat an apple with the skin, than drink apple juice; and it is better to consume a fillet steak than a processed sausage.
- Don’t rely on single products to improve your health.
For example, some kinds of margarine are fortified with sterols to help lower cholesterol. But ask yourself this: “should I use this margarine that contains sterols to lower my cholesterol, or should I reduce the presence of animal products, trans fats and sugar in my diet?”
- Not all fortified products are healthy so read labels before buying new products.
For example, some cereals are fortified with iron, but they’re also very high in refined sugar.
- Before reaching for a supplement try correcting your diet
Supplements such as probiotics and multivitamins are great and they have their place in the market. However, before reaching for a supplement, try correcting your diet. Once your diet is optimal, then you can start exploring different supplements.
- Improve your gut health
First try consuming a diet that is high in fermented foods, vegetables, and spices, and is mainly plant-based before reaching for a probiotic.
- Don’t be fooled by crazy health claims
Have you ever heard that drinking a glass of red wine a day is good for you? The phytochemical in red wine called resveratrol has antimicrobial, anti-cancer, cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This is probably where this saying comes from. However, for this chemical to have an effect, you’d need to drink 205 glasses of red wine a day (assuming you weigh 100kg). Ditch the myths, go back to basics.
- Key nutrients
Include specific nutrients in your diet that are well known to have a positive affect on immunity.
|Vitamin C – helps wounds heal
|Found in citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes.
|Vitamin D – regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and enhances the function of immune cells
|Produced by skin from direct sunlight, found in oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks.
|Zinc – maintains the integrity of your skin and immune cells
|Found in oysters, beef, chicken, tofu, pork, seeds, nuts, lentils, yoghurt, oats, mushrooms
|Selenium – an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and enhances immunity
|Found in seafood, organ meats, brazil nuts, bread, cereals, poultry, red meat, eggs, broccoli, spinach
|Iron – needed to make red blood cells
|Found in liver, red meat, beans, such as red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit – such as dried apricots, fortified cereals
|Protein – needed to build immune cells
|Found in seafood, poultry, red meat, legumes/beans, cows milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, grains
By Lauren Walsh