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May 31

Tip of the Month – May 2020

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Coach Monika Says…

How to Boost Your Athlete’s Immunity during the Virus Pandemic 

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I discovered this post on the Website of TrueSport (refer to Reference). Although their recommendations are for the Annual Flu season, we can safely assume that these would equally apply to the present COVID-19 pandemic. Due to current social isolation requirements we presently don’t have to deal with the struggle to keep young athletes healthy when friends and classmates get sick. However, here are simple nutritional tips to help boost athletes’ immunity, and hopefully they stay healthy when school returns and sports resume later this year.

Adding More Colors 

Fruits and vegetables can be a powerful medicine. TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily from all the colors of the rainbow – preferably, two fruits and three vegetables. This helps ensure that your athlete is getting the necessary vitamins to stay healthy: vitamins A, C, and E are all critical to a high-functioning immune system.

Adding Zinc-Containing Foods 

Researchers have found that zinc can boost immune function in children, yet globally, one in six people is deficient in the mineral. Foods high in zinc include red meat, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, hemp seeds, cashews, and dairy. 

If you have a ‘picky eater’ at home, try these delicious options:

  • Granola or oatmeal with low-fat milk
  • Trail mix: cheerio’s, raisins, peanuts
  • Peanut butter on whole-grain bread
  • Turkey, ham, or roast beef sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Hamburger on whole-grain bun
Limiting Processed Foods 

The Cleveland Clinic also recommends limiting processed foods for young athletes as the gut bacteria that thrive on highly processed sugars aren’t as immune-system-boosting as the bacteria that thrive on a healthier, high-fiber diet. Encourage your athlete to consume more whole foods, including brightly coloured fruits and veggies, as well as zinc-rich foods (see previous).

Adding Pre- and Probiotic-Rich Foods

Probiotics, helpful bacteria that are naturally found in the body can help boost your athlete’s immunity during cold and flu (i.e., Virus season). A recent study on allergy prevention and treatment shows a decrease in upper respiratory infections when using probiotics as they can guard against viral infections. Rather than popping pills, introduce fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi (Korean side dish of vegetables – may not be every child’s favourite!). If you have a ‘picky eater’, consult your family physician to get a recommendation on whether a probiotic is right for your athlete. According to Ziesmer, “provide probiotics with food, such as bananas, garlic, onions, whole wheat bread, and asparagus.”

New Canada and US Food Guides

Check out the 2019 updated Canada Food Guide (January 22, 2019) versus the US Food Pyramid, which presents an image of the ‘Food Plate’ as compared to its previous 2015 ‘Food Pyramid.’ The objective is to make sure your child and teen athlete consume the daily requirements of all food types.

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January 22, 2019

New Canada Food Guide – 3 Groups

Eat Protein Foods

Make Water Your Drink of Choice

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Previous US Food Pyramid Updated US Food Plate – 4 Groups

*Bonus Tip: AND… Don’t forget to Wash the Hands! 

Proper hand washing is the #1 recommendation from health authorities to prevent sickness from spreading, even with a boosted immune system. It is still important to help your athlete get in the habit of washing their hands frequently and effectively by rubbing soapy hands with water for at least 20 seconds (some medical experts say that warm or cold water does not matter). While one can never completely safeguard against getting sick, but with a few simple preventative measures – that should be healthy habits anyway – we can help boost the immune system.

References:

Canada Food Guide (2019, January 22). Retrieved May 4, 2020, from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

TrueSport Program (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2020, from http://learn.truesport.org/boost-athletes-immunity-flu-season/

US Department of Health and Human Services. Food & Nutrition Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020) (8th ed.). Retrieved May 4, 2020, from https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition

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