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S Rajbhandari

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We are constantly exposed to germs like viruses, bacteria, fungi, and toxins that can cause diseases and infections. With an ongoing pandemic, the risk is even higher and the focus to stay healthy and reduce our chances of getting sick has never been more important. Luckily for us, nature has equipped our bodies with natural defense mechanisms that normally kick in to protect us in the event that one of these pathogens attack us. Our immune system, though strong and capable of handling a lot of foreign invaders, works best when it’s boosted naturally with the right minerals and vitamins often found in our foods. Since all foods are not created equal, certain foods are considered superfoods because even in small portions, they contain just the right amount of nutrients and vitamins to boost our immune system naturally.  Here are seven superfoods that you should consider adding to your list of immune-boosting foods: 

1.   Fish

Easy ready to enjoy meals

Fish, including salmon is delicious, light, and a great source for healthy protein. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids which is one of the most scientifically-studied nutrients that has so many benefits for our body. Fish has not only been shown to only boost our immune system but can also improve sleep, help fight anxiety and depression, promote a healthy heart, improve eye health, prevent certain cancers, improve bone and joint health, and nourish our skin. Most fish have a ton of omega-3 but if you’re trying to get the best for your buck, then salmon should top your list of foods high in omega-3. 

2.   Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables are not only low in calories and high on fiber, they are also rich in vitamins and nutrients that play a critical role in keeping our immune system functioning at a higher capacity. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, arugula, and turnip contain minerals that are great for improving our cognition, preventing certain cancers, reducing our risk of heart disease, reducing stress, preventing abnormalities in developing babies, and reducing inflammation to boost our immunity. Spinach for instance packs a lot of antioxidants that boost our immune system to help our body fight germs and other opportunistic infections. It is also high in vitamin C, a vitamin that is essential in boosting our immunity and reducing the risk of infection from cold and related viruses.

All leafy and colorful vegetables to your diet for numerous benefits

3.   Yogurt

You may already know that yogurt is packed with the right nutrients for our body. Look for yogurts with live and active cultures when possible as these cultures can help keep your body balanced to improve immunity and reduce risk of infections. Yogurt also has a lot of vitamin D which is not only great for bone health but is also good for improving our immune system. According to the National Institute of Health, low levels of vitamin D is a risk factor for increased infections with viruses such as cold and flu. So, add yogurt to your daily diet to boost your immune system especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu months.

4.   Nuts

Nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain a lot of vitamin E, an antioxidant which has been shown to significantly improve and boost our immune system. Since vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps our body get rid of toxic byproducts of our metabolism, a good healthy serving of nuts rich in vitamin E can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and certain cancers, as well as improve and slow down the aging process. Vitamin E also enhances our body’s defense mechanisms, boosting our immune system to protect us from several infectious diseases like cold, pneumonia, flu, and related viruses. 

5.   Green Cruciferous Veggies

Green cruciferous veggies like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and Bok choy are rich in fiber, but are also packed with vitamin A, C, E and many other essential nutrients like zinc and selenium that have been scientifically proven to boost our immune system and protect us from harmful germs and pathogens. If you have to have one superfood in your daily diet, consider making broccoli your food of choice. Broccoli is so powerful that just half a cup of steamed broccoli provides almost 85% of our reference daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C, a vitamin well-known for boosting our immunity. 

6.   Berries

Berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, goji berries, grapes and acai berries are colorful, sweet, and sometimes sour. However, the benefits of berries go beyond their great taste and eye appeal because they are nutritionally dense and contain extremely powerful nutrients like fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and several many antioxidants. Aside from their proven role in boosting our immune system due to their high content of antioxidants, berries also improve our heart health,  reduce cholesterol, maintain our weight, and prevent diabetes amongst many other benefits. 

Try our organic strawberry chia pudding with added fruits!

7.   Whole Grains (Quinoa, Brown Rice, Oatmeal)

Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole grain oatmeal are rich in fiber, vitamins, protein, minerals, and antioxidants. They are known to lower the risk for diabetes, reduce the risk for certain cancers, support a healthy heart, and support healthy digestion. Since whole grains contain a good mix of antioxidant, vitamins, and minerals including zinc, iron, and the B vitamins, they play a major role as immune boosters to improve our immune system and reduce our risks of getting infections. Celiac patients and those with gluten sensitivity should continue to avoid whole grain but try other superfood options where possible. 

There are many superfoods that can boost and improve our immune system and adding these seven food types to your diet, when possible, can go a long way with helping your overall well-being while keeping you safer and healthier. 

1992 – As a 6 year-old kid growing up in Nepal, I  contracted a disease called Neuro-cysticercosis. 

Don’t worry this isn’t my brain, this is just an example of a brain with the disease

Neuro-cysticercosis is literally worms in the brain.

Cysticercosis is a tissue infection caused by a young form of tape worm cyst caused by ingesting undercooked pork. Neurocysticercosis affects the brain.

During a gathering at home, I unknowingly ate some undercooked barbecued pork that was contaminated with a tape worm cyst.  

I was a normal, fun-loving boy, who always had a smile on his face. Out of nowhere, I turned gravely ill in a matter of days. Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, and extreme fatigue. The worst symptom of all, however, were the periodic epilepsy-like seizures. During an episode, my hands would convulse and shake violently until someone held me down. All I could do was cry in anguish and even at that age, I remember thinking that that was the end of me.

This was me before getting sick

Within a few days of my symptoms manifesting, the doctors determined that it would be best if I was taken to Thailand for treatment because they just did not have the medical services in Nepal to treat my condition. Fortunately, my dad had the resources to take me out of the country to get treated immediately. 

This was me when I got sick

I was admitted in a Bangkok hospital for what felt like months. My parents were worried sick and to this day, my mom still tells me how my dad’s hair turned white overnight because of how anxious he felt while we were there. I remember nurses and doctors visiting my hospital room every morning to draw blood or to inject me with some medication. EKGs were a usual thing and I  had become accustomed to living in the hospital. I also remember they performed a lumbar puncture procedure, the pain from which, I will never forget.

My prescription drugs included heavy doses of anti-psychotic drugs that were used to prevent seizures. Those drugs treat you by altering how the chemistry of your brain works. It took a while for the medicine to start working and as part of my prescription routine, I took those drugs for over 3 years.

Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime of suffering, the combination of medical procedures and strong drugs started working. I started getting better. We visited hospitals in Thailand for follow-ups once a  year for over 5 years. Over time, the seizures stopped and I was eventually cured. 

As expected, the drugs I took for so many years had side-effects. While on them, my mind was cloudy and was confused most the time. Even though my parents put me back in school for some sense of normalcy, I would spend most of my days day-dreaming. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat, and to no one’s surprise, I ended up putting on a lot of weight. As the years went on and I eventually cycled out of all the drugs, I had gone from a scrawny little kid to an obese adolescent.

Unfortunately, because of that, I struggled with weight management most of life. It felt like I had given up one fight for another. Often taunted and teased at school, I became determined to find a way to get my health under control. At the time, there was not a lot of information on weight management and dieting. There was, as it is now, a lot of conflicting information of what was healthy and what was not. Out of worry for my health, my dad often forced me to drink water before a meal and eat less. This made me develop a bad relationship with food. I tried everything from crash dieting, liquid dieting, Atkins, and a lot more during my teen years. Trying many diets and falling off of them throughout the years caused my body weight to constantly fluctuate without achieving long terms success, which further ruined my relationship with food. Needless to say it wasn’t healthy.

2006 – The 19 year-old me moved to California to pursue a degree in Business. By that time, access to the internet and information on diet and exercise methodologies had become much more accessible. After researching many topics online, I got into working out and meal-prepping to manage my health. I became particularly enthralled by how bodybuilders used diet methodologies to control their body composition. I made great strides, lost 40 lbs, and to became the healthiest version of myself. 

I was still struggling to maintain that lifestyle though. As a broke college student, I wished there was a way for me to stay healthy without having to put in so much money, time and effort. Naturally, because of what I had been through all my life I was determined to stay healthy and aspired to help others like me someday.

At the time, the concept of meal-prepping healthy meals had started gaining popularity but no one thought of it as a viable business model.

2011-2013 –  Fresh out of college, I worked a corporate job in accounting and finance. I also realized how hard it was to stay healthy while working a 9-5 job. Corporate America is addicted to sugar, coffee, and carbs. A lot of carbs. I found it increasingly difficult to manage a healthy lifestyle and have good work-life balance. The struggles with my weight and health continued. 

Until this time, I didn’t realize I had become the cliché example of a person who would try a new diet every year, who was stuck in this vicious cycle of trying and failing every few years. I would try something new, get results, and then gain all the weight back once I stopped doing what I did to gain those results.  

What I learned about living healthy – Every few years a different method gains popularity because it is what is sold. After many years of trying different diets, failing, and still struggling with my relationship with food, I took some time to reflect on my journey and listened to industry professionals who weren’t peddling any diets or products. 

Here is the best advice I ever got on food and diet – The best diet is the one that you can stick to forever. Of course, most diets work, but you can’t stick to one forever. Caloric restriction is the only thing that all diets have in common, so instead of looking at certain diets as an all encompassing solution, you have to change your perspective and look at them as tools you can use to achieve a specific goal. That’s all. This simple advice really changed the way I looked at food and helped me tremendously. 

2014 – The birth of Local Foodz-It started with a conversation between two of my close friends (who are now co-founders of Local Foodz) that led to an epiphany. I was complaining about the state of my unhealthy lifestyle and about not being able to get my meal-prepping done before my week started, when one of them said, “imagine how many people have the same problem.” That instant, we realized that it was a universal problem. Immediately following the conversation, we decided that starting a “meal prep” company was an idea we wanted to pursue. The idea aligned perfectly with our personal goals. It not only worked as a business model, it helped people achieve their health and fitness goals, something I was really passionate about. Our conviction about the business idea was further strengthened by the strong response we got from a local fitness industry professional who immediately referred people our way. We earned our first customers even before we officially started the business. Further still, my partners and I had the complimentary skill-set to get this project off the ground. Now, we’re on our 5th year of operations.

Before Local Foodz, I just wasn’t passionate and driven about what I was doing. I always felt something missing. That was, as I would later come to realize, a sense of purpose.

It felt like the stars aligned the day we started Local Foodz. Everything that I’d been through all my life culminated in that one moment and I realized that I found my purpose. In that moment, I realized that everything I had been through was so that I could use what I had learned, professionally and otherwise,  to build something that would help people become healthier in every way. After all, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. It’s a worthy cause. 

Looking back, I can’t imagine where I would be now if I never went through what I did. I am very passionate about what I do at Local Foodz because what I went through. In a way, the disease, the suffering, and the challenges all helped me determine what my purpose is today. If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably still be pushing paper somewhere.