The entire world has changed in a week. While it may be tempting to binge-eat while you binge-watch, now is not the time to put your healthy eating habits and overall wellness on the back burner. The last thing you want is to start packing on the pandemic pounds, or worse: poor nutrition during these times can weaken your immune system.
Research has shown that depressed folks with low levels of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin have a predisposition to obesity because they self-medicate with certain foods in a subconscious effort to raise serotonin levels; in other words, feeling depressed may lead to overeating and poor food habits.
And, bingeing on sugar is also not the answer, because sugar can:
- cause blood glucose to spike and plummet, causing mood swings, fatigue, headaches—and cravings for more sugar
- increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease—and interfere with your immune function, putting your health at serious risk
- increase your stress level hormones
- cause tooth decay and gum disease
But, in the midst of bad news, there is good news. Low carb and low sugar foods have been shown to help improve your mood, boost your energy, support your immune system, and curb your sweet cravings. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, inside and out, is key to keeping your immune system operating at its best. So, instead of reaching for sugar-laden snacks, try a few of these colorful, nutrient-rich swaps to feel the difference.
Foods to Strengthen Your Immune System and Snack Ideas to Try
- Red peppers are not only a low carb veggie, but boast a whopping 178% DV vitamin C per serving, making it one of the best low carb foods that help your immune system. Try as “boats” filled with tuna salad, or accompanying your favorite dip.
- Try an at-home, low carb parfait. A half cup of unsweetened whole milk yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons no-added-sugar grated coconut, plus 1 packet sweetener or a handful of antioxidant-rich blueberries. Probiotics are a good way to support your immune system function, and this snack will provide you with a dose of probiotics and fortify your digestive tract.
- Have a few green or black olives, perhaps stuffed with cheese. Pickled things like olives also contain probiotics and can help support immunity and gut health.
- Mix 4 ounces tomato juice and 1 tablespoon sour cream in a bowl, and you’ve got yourself a refreshing cold creamed soup packed with vitamin C . Top with chunks of avocado, which can help lower stress, if desired.
- On Atkins, you can also have fruit other than berries, cherries and melon, as long as they’re eaten with some cheese, cream, plain whole milk yogurt, nuts or protein. Try ½ cup red or purple grapes with a couple slices of sliced turkey. Or an apple with almonds, another stress-reducing food full of vitamin E.
- Spice up your life by adding garlic, ginger, and turmeric to your snacks! Roasted garlic pairs well with a snack plate and offers plenty of immune-boosting properties. Nutrient-packed ginger and anti-inflammatory turmeric are just as at home in a carrot soup as they are in a sweet, superfood smoothie, like these.
Smart Low Carb Snacking Strategies
Now that you have an idea of foods that help your immune system, it’s important that you snack on them mindfully. While your normal schedule may now involve regular “drive bys” of your fridge and pantry or just munching mindlessly out of boredom or stress, it’s important to stick with these smart snacking strategies
- Eat a decent breakfast. Eat a decent breakfast. Starting your day right keeps your blood sugar levels even and you won't be tempted to binge later on. Check out these delicious low carb breakfast recipes.
- Choose crunchy foods that are low in glycemic impact. Some of the best snacks are nuts, fruits (like blueberries and cherries) with an ounce of cheese, or celery sticks with cream cheese or peanut butter.
- Take the time to enjoy your snack properly. Arrange your snack on a plate or nice tray and sit down to eat it.
- Have a drink. No, I’m not talking cocktails. If you're in the mood for a snack but you're not really hungry, try drinking some hot or iced green tea—another immune-supporting food. And don't overlook a simple glass of ice water with lemon.
While you can’t control what’s happening in the world right now, you can continue to make healthy choices for your and your family’s overall wellness.