3 Nutrition Tips for a Strong Immune System

This winter, cold viruses have travelled through our workplace like a whirlwind, moving from cubicle to cubicle and then back again.  With my training volume, I'm careful to ensure that my food intake generally supports recovery and a strong immune system.

In recent days, in the spirit of helping out, I've taken to writing nutrition "prescriptions" for colleagues who have been particularly prone to illnesses.

Here are three nutrition techniques I use to stay healthy:

1) Consume Dark Green Vegetables - These are consistently on my grocery list, regardless of what I plan to cook for the week.  Broccoli and baby spinach are staples and I usually find a way to include kale too.  (I like dinosaur kale, also known as black kale, because it's softer than traditional kale and so easy to throw into a salad.)  During the spring, I'll look for fiddleheads and throughout the year I try to incorporate rapini, collards and occasionally, dandelion greens.

This kale salad mix, with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and dressing, is very popular in my city and is an easy way to add a variety of vegetables to your diet.  I think it has also single-handedly sparked a resurgence in poppyseed dressing!

2) Supplement with Glutamine - This one may be somewhat controversial.  Glutamine, which is a non-essential amino acid that's needed for cell growth and to support the immune system, is commonly stocked in health food stores.  It's also the subject of scientific debate, where a number of researchers have found it doesn't boost immunity, whereas others assert that it does.  All I can say is that when I use it daily, I rarely have a sniffle or other issue.  It's when I've used all of my supply and forgotten to restock that I begin to feel worn out.

3) Get your vitamin Cs and E - Both of these vitamins contribute to a strong immune system.  Each week, I fill my fridge with fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and peppers, that have high levels of vitamin C.  (The spinach I noted above in (1) also provides vitamin C.)  I get my vitamin E by eating raw, mixed nuts each day.

That said, I generally avoid supplementing with these vitamins, noting that recent studies show that high dose supplementation can lower the benefits of endurance training because the antioxidant nature of the vitamins counteracts the adaptive response to exercise.

Remember, by getting your vitamins through whole foods, you're also getting the bonus of soluble fibre, which one study showed helped mice kick a bacterial infection.

You'll always find peppers in my fridge. 

Bonus tip: If you live near a Loblaws store, try out the company's fresh squeezed green juice, which is a combination of kale, spinach, pineapple and orange.  When I'm worried that I may be getting a cold, I'll pick up a large bottle, pour a glass and add juice squeeze from fresh ginger.

The fresh juice bar at Loblaws.