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Immune-Boosting Foods for Seniors

A strong immune system will help your body stay healthy throughout the year. Being resilient allows your body to fight off infections and other invasive bacteria that can cause illness. During the deep cold of winter, a hearty immune system is even more important to your overall health. Scientists have learned that it is more difficult to stay healthy when the temperatures outside are cold, especially for older adults who can no longer retain their body heat as well.


Consuming a healthy diet is the cornerstone of living well. While the culinary fare is not as wide during the winter as it is during summer months, there is still a plethora of delicious and hearty foods and drinks that can keep your immune system in fighting shape. 


The dietary staff at Heritage Health is committed to providing healthy, satisfying meals that are nutritious and will keep seniors at their best. While not all-encompassing, below are several immune system-boosting foods that you should put on the menu this winter. 


Oats & Barley

It's an old adage that a warm bowl of oatmeal will "stick to your ribs" – keeping you filled up throughout your morning. It's also a wonderful comfort food, so dive in and enjoy a bowl every morning! These grains contain a specific type of fiber that has antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities that boost immunity, can help antibiotics work better and can speed up the process of a healing wound.


Flaxseeds

Want to give your oatmeal an even bigger boost? A little brown sugar can give your breakfast a little taste of sweet, but the addition of ground flaxseeds is a great way to add more protein and fiber. Flaxseeds boast multiple health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They also contain a group of nutrients (lignans) that have formidable antioxidant properties. Ground flaxseed is better than eating the whole seeds (our intestines cannot break down the hard shell of the seed) and can be added to almost anything, including water, smoothies, bread, muffins or yogurt.


Yogurt & Probiotics

Probiotics have become quite the buzzword in the healthy living world. Probiotics are most often consumed in yogurt or via supplements to help balance our digestive system with healthy bacteria that will keep our gut in equilibrium. There are different strains of probiotics, some of which appear to specifically stimulate white blood cells. Researchers have found that a significant portion of our immune system's ability to function well is directly related to the health of the bacteria in our digestive tracts.


As we age, the natural levels of healthy bacteria declines, so older Americans who may already have weaker immune systems need to be especially mindful that they are keeping this in balance. Probiotics are found in more than just yogurt and cheeses (be sure these products you are consuming say "active, live cultures"); you can also find them in sauerkraut, pickles and traditional buttermilk.


Sweet Potatoes, Kale & Carrots

We don't often think of our skin as being part of our immune system, but as our largest organ, it is our first line of defense against many bacteria and germs that may try to invade our bodies. In order to be healthy, our skin needs Vitamin A, which is obtained by eating foods like sweet potatoes that convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Enjoy sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach or kale to help keep your skin healthy.


Fruits & Vegetables with Vitamin C

No healthy food list for winter immunity would be complete without listing Vitamin C options. Our immune systems need Vitamin C in order to produce antibodies that fight infections, however it is not naturally produced by the body and has to be ingested through various food and beverage sources. Older people tend to have lower levels of Vitamin C which can severely affect their immune system and leave them open to illness.  Oranges, pears, Brussel sprouts, broccoli rabe, kale and kiwi fruit (yes, a winter fruit!) are all delicious sources of immune-boosting Vitamin C. You can even add a slice of lemon or lime to your water for a drink that is healthy and beautiful!


Beef

It's what's for dinner! Beef is high in zinc which our immune systems need to stay strong and heal wounds. However, many people do not eat enough beef, choosing lower fat protein options like chicken and shellfish (spoiler, shellfish help to flush flu viruses out of the body) leaving them with a zinc deficiency. Even a mild deficiency can increase our risk of infection and lower the development of white blood cells which are needed to clear out bacteria and viruses.


Mushrooms

Mushrooms, specifically shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms, are immune system superfoods that increase the production of white blood cells and make them more aggressive in fighting an infection. Fresh mushrooms are better than canned and are available all year round to include as a regular part of your diet.


Other foods available during winter that will help keep your immune system in good health include chicken soup, black tea, garlic, almonds, rosemary, eggs and cinnamon. So eat well, and pile your plate full of these mouthwatering culinary delights to stay healthy this winter season. Talk to the culinary team or dieticians at Heritage Health to learn more about what healthy immune-boosting superfoods are available on our menus.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

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