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Doctor’s Tip: An immune-boosting grocery shopping list

Dr. Greg Feinsinger
Doctor’s Tip
Greg Feinsinger

Free Zoom presentation

Dr. Feinsinger presents a free Zoom presentation about boosting your immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic from 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, April 6. Go to the DaviNikent.org website and click on Zoom link, or call Ardis at 340-9009. Shop-With-A-Doc grocery store tours canceled until further notice.

This is another column in a series about your body’s five defense mechanisms: immune system; angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels); regeneration (stem cells); microbiome; and DNA protection.

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important not only to do your best to avoid the virus, but also to have an optimal immune system — which helps prevent infection, but also helps you fight it off if you are infected. Furthermore, an optimal immune system also helps prevent cancer, by destroying cancer cells as soon as they appear.

Eating the right foods boosts your immunity — particularly plants that are intensely flavored (herbs and spices) and/or intensely colored. These plant foods are loaded with antioxidants and other immune-boosting micronutrients. Following is a shopping list to help you make food choices that will boost your immunity and thereby directly decrease your chances of acquiring COVID-19 and particularly of dying from it. Eating these foods will also indirectly decrease your risk of severe COVID-19 illness by preventing, treating and in many cases reversing the chronic diseases associated with increased COVID risk: hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

VEGETABLES

• We tell people to eat the colors of the rainbow. Examples are green leafy vegetables of any kind (such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, chard, arugula), red cabbage, red onions, peppers, beets, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and eggplant.

• Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, arugula, water cress, mustard greens, collard greens and turnip greens. They are very healthful and contain a strong cancer-fighting substance that is destroyed by cooking. (So include some raw cruciferous vegetables in your salads or before eating cooked ones).

• Legumes: beans, lentils, chick peas and split peas.

• Allium family of vegetables, which includes onions, garlic, shallots, leaks and chives.

MUSHROOMS

They are a fungus rather than a vegetable, and the “intense color and/or flavor rule” doesn’t apply. Eating them a few times a week boosts your immunity.

HERBS AND SPICES

There are too many to mention here, but use them to add flavor to your meals. Turmeric, which is both intensely flavored and intensely colored, is the “king of health-promoting spices.” Adding black pepper to turmeric increases the effectiveness by 1,000 times.

FRESH (BUT NOT DRIED) FRUIT

Again, intense color is important: oranges, pink grapefruit, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, kiwi fruit, dark grapes, dark plums, berries. Bananas, while not unhealthy, are a white fruit, and overrated as a health food.

WHOLE (UNPROCESSED) GRAINS

Intense color applies to grains as well, so the most healthful rice is black (“forbidden”) rice, next best red rice, followed by brown rice. Avoid white rice because it’s refined and has minimal nutrients. When buying grain-based foods such as tortillas, watch for added sodium and sugar (4 grams = 1 teaspoonful). Check the food label and make sure the total carb:fiber ratio is 5:1 or less (multiply the fiber number by 5, and if the result is same or greater than the number for total carbs, that product has lots of healthy fiber and whole grains). Dr. Fuhrman says “the whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead.”

HOW ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?

If you eat the aforementioned plant foods, you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, the way we evolved to get them — through the food we eat. We did not evolve to get them in pill form, and doing so can actually cause problems including harming your immunity. There are two caveats however: 1) Vegans and older omnivores need to take 1,000 mcg. of B12 daily (B12 is made by bacteria in dirt, and with treated water and pre-washed produce, we don’t eat much dirt these days). 2) Most people are low in vitamin D3, and need to take a 2,000 unit supplement every day.

MORE INFORMATION?

• Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not to Die” — the second half includes his daily dozen, foods we should be eating every day, why and how much.

• “Eat to Beat Disease, The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself,” by William Li, M.D.

• “Super Immunity,” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Summary: Do what you can to avoid COVID-19, but also eat to support your immune system.

Greg Feinsinger, M.D. is a retired family physician who has a nonprofit: Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He gives a free presentation at 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Third Street Center in Carbondale; is available by appointment for free consultations (379-5718); and conducts a shop-with-a-doc session at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of the month at Carbondale City Market.


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