Can eating proper foods really protect you from a cold or the flu? I strongly believe that diet plays a major role in health. What we eat (and breathe and otherwise take in) is what we are.

Our bodies survive on what we put into them. Garbage in, garbage out (and vice versa). We must satisfy the needs of our various systems while keeping as many toxins out as possible, a term I use to loosely describe anything harmful to the human person, from arsenic to white sugar, trans fats to chlorine bleach.

I can vouch for our family’s experience: we have been much more healthy since incorporating more whole, nutrient-dense foods into our diet and cutting down on the junk (although we still have plenty of compromise foods and sweets).

5 Foods To Keep you Healthy

I left you hanging a month ago with 5 Foods Women Should be Eating and the mystery of which food I blame for my reduction in cellulite. Today you get to hear about that food, plus four more that improve the health of not only women, but men and children, too.

Katie Fox has already talked about Foods to Keep you Healthy recently, so that makes my job one step easier.

1. Cruciferous vegetables

Photo by La Grande Farmer’s MarketWhy everyone should eat more:

Vegetables always bring nutrients along, and the deeper the color, the better they are. Everyone needs to bulk up on antioxidants to fight the toxins in our air, our food, and our water, and broccoli and kale especially fill this need. Antioxidants support the immune system and fight cancer.

Why women should eat more:

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage) have a special compound called indole-3-carbinol, which reduces estrogen in the body, i.e. fights build-up of synthetic estrogen that all women take in from our environment. I just tackled that subject at Green…Your Way with “Does Your Water Have Estrogen in It?

Other Resources:

2. Chicken stock

Photo by Katie KimballWhy everyone should eat more:

Properly prepared chicken stock has gelatin to boost your immune system, aid digestion, increase protein efficiency (i.e., you can eat less meat and have the same benefits), and pump up bone density. You won’t believe how many diseases chicken stock can help!

Why women should eat more:

Glucosamine in the stock rebuilds connective tissue damage that helps cause cellulite (see more at Cellulite Investigation). The collagen from the bones may also help the cellulite deal, but this is not even the food I assumed was responsible for my loss!

Other Resources:

3. Cod liver oil

Aw, man. I know, cod liver oil (or “CLO” for those in the know) sounds really yucky. Our family just started taking it this fall, and I cannot tell a lie: it is really yucky. We’ve learned to toughen up and take it because it’s good for us. Did you know CLO also comes in capsule form? Lovely.

Why everyone should eat more:

Among the nutrients we really need for immune system and general health, Vitamin D is at the top of the list. Cod liver oil has twice as much Vitamin D as the next closest food in the running (pastured lard), four times that in sockeye salmon, and over 50 times as much as pastured eggs. The Vitamin D in CLO is more bioavailable than the synthetic stuff in your breakfast cereal or store whole milk. It also helps us balance our omega 3s with our omega 6s, which is key for many health issues. (You can also lower your intake of omega 6s by cutting out polyunsaturated vegetable oils.)

Why women should eat more:

Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA, a healthy fat found almost exclusively in fish and breastmilk, both serve to help women build healthy babies, balance hormones, and fight depression and mood issues. Vitamin D also helps proper absorption of calcium, for which women over 40 have a particular need.

Other Resources:

4. Yogurt

This one is pretty easy to swallow, and just about everyone will agree that more yogurt is healthy for you.

Photo by Katie KimballWhy everyone should eat more:

Our guts house 80% of our immune system. I kid you not. If you want to have a balanced intestinal flora, you need to make sure you invite “good bacteria,” aka probiotics, to be among your 100 trillion microscopic houseguests. Make sure your yogurt has “live and active cultures” listed on the container, or make homemade yogurt to save money and increase your nutrition even more.

Why women should eat more:

Probiotics help protect from yeast infections and osteoporosis, and they also ease symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, recently pegged as an attacker of more women than men. Yogurt also helps you feel full longer, a nice bonus.

5. Coconut oil

Photo by Chandrika NairWhy everyone should eat more:

As a saturated fat, poor coconut oil has gotten a bad reputation in our time. However, coconut oil is still a plant oil, and its medium-chain fatty acids are unmatched in their ability to give quick energy. Lauric acid, a crucial component of breastmilk, is found in nature almost exclusively in coconut oil, to the point that formulas have to include coconut oil just to get it right. This fat is metabolized quickly and would be hard-pressed to stay on your figure as stored fat/extra pounds.

Coconut oil is naturally antiviral and antibacterial, so who wouldn’t want to have it regularly in their system while the viruses and bacteria from your neighbor’s sneeze are trying to take root?

Why women should eat more:

The lauric acid is great for mother’s milk supply, and coconut oil also promotes strong bones for women as we age. Personally, I think the easily digested saturated fats may have been my cellulite’s undoing. Including coconut oil in our regular diet was one of many changes I’ve made in our family’s nutrition over the past two years, so my claim is certainly not backed by empirical data…but the coconut oil surely isn’t hurting!

Other Resources:

Don’t forget that the five foods women should be eating more of have an awful lot of healthy components for men and children, too. The brain-boosting choline in eggs, the energetic B Vitamins in liver and red meat, the incredible antioxidants and eye health packed into spinach, salmon’s omega 3s and the immune-system supporting fats in whole dairy and butter all work together with today’s five foods to make not only a great meal, but a healthy family.

What’s your first line of defense against sick bugs?