Plant Based Nutrition Tips to Boost Your Immune System by Shin-Di Cynthia Lai, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., RN, BSN

Plant Based Nutrition Tips to Boost Your Immune System by Shin-Di Cynthia Lai, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., RN, BSN

Plant Based Nutrition Tips to Boost Your Immune System

by Shin-Di Cynthia Lai, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., RN, BSN

Brief Introduction/Tell Us About yourself:

I am a Licensed Acupunturist and Registered Nurse.  I received my first Bachelor’s in Kinesiology from California State University, Northridge.  I received my Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Yo San University.  I received my second Bachelor’s in Nursing from California State University, Dominguez Hills.  I am also a nationally certified Acupuncturist.  I am a LA native.  I currently practice in Encino, CA and have been in practice for 8 years.  I am a big sports fan with the Lakers and Dodgers being two of my favorite teams.  I enjoy cooking and traveling. 

In my practice, I combine medical training and holistic practice to focus on developing healthy and supportive relationships with clients.  I integrate Eastern and Western Medicine to offer the best of both medicines to enhance the health and wellness of individuals.  I currently specialize in Fertility Acupuncture, sports medicine, endocrinology and pain.  In my practice, I offer Chinese herbal, nutritional and lifestyle consultations utilizing evidence based practice, information and sources.

How did you become passionate about healthy eating?

While in school for Traditional Chinese Medicine, we learned about the effects of food on the body and how food could be used medicinally.  It was during that time that I realized that the better you eat and nourish yourself, the stronger and more balanced you are.  In Chinese Medicine, our main digestive organs are the spleen and stomach.  The stomach does the digesting, and the spleen pulls the nutrition from food and circulates the nutrition and energy to your body.  Our strength and balance of the spleen have to do with energy levels.  Therefore, the better an individual eats with better nutrition, the more energy they will have.  Think about how fatigued you are when you don’t eat well or if you don’t eat often enough.  It could be from lack of nutrition or being depleted.  Furthermore, the tastes and temperatures of food can help balance the body out.  If there is a certain condition, food can be used to counterbalance the condition out.  Think about when we are fatigued, we sometimes go for sweet treats to help us feel nourished or energized.  Our bodies will crave what needs to be balanced out.  Understanding this philosophy really helped change my mindset and choices about what types of food to eat.  It’s been an amazing transformation. 

If you could persuade people to change three things about their diet during these challenging times, what would they be?

  • Cut out sugar and processed foods as they offer no nutritional support
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit as these foods have all the vitamins and antioxidants to support the immune system
  • Drink more water for adequate hydration and to help flush toxins out

Most of the world is practicing social distancing and working from home, how important is it to hydrate while doing so?

First of all, the human body is over 50% water.  We have to be mindful and give our bodies the water it needs to carry out its functions. Men need about 3 liters per day.  Women need about 2 liters per day. If we drink caffeine, soda, and/or juice, we need to drink the same amount of water just to balance those fluids out, which don’t count towards our daily intake. 

Second, it can help curb any cravings and overeating while at home

Third, hydrations keeps our mucous membranes moist to prevent dehydration

Fourth, maintaining hydration can help flush toxins out, which helps our immune system.  Our lymph system is our drainage and filtering system.  It needs adequate water to help get rid of the junk in our bodies. 

Fifth, as oral and nasal passages are an entry point for the coronavirus, it might help to drink water to help flush things out of these area.  This does not mean you will not or cannot become infected just from drinking water so proper prevention is still needed.   

What are 3 at-home x kitchen must haves for people practicing social distancing?

Pressure cooker to make quick, healthy and easy meals

Glass Tupperware – to store and maintain freshness of leftovers.  Better than keeping leftovers and meals in plastic

Indoor herb garden for basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, etc.

What are 5 ‘must stock’ foods each of our readers should stock up on from the grocery store during social distancing?

Beans – all types


Frozen veggies: spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, peas, and corn

Frozen fruit

Grains: rice, oatmeal, barley, quinoa

What are some ways to boost your immunity amid the coronavirus outbreak?

Stick with your self-care plan. If there isn’t one, develop one that works for you to maintain consistency.

Keep moving and workout – we are in a state that allows us to be more sedentary.  It will very important to find ways to supplement the movement we were normally getting

Eat healthier – remember, the better the food source, the stronger our bodies are

Meditate – can help reduce stress and anxiety, which lowers our cortisol levels and keep our immune system at bay.

Talking and communicating with friends and family – helps us stay happy which trigger the good feels

Any at-home detox recipes or secrets?

Making a tea with ginger, lemon, cinnamon, honey, and licorice root. 

Making a soup with bone broth as the base: it is very nutritious with vitamins and antioxidants, warming to the joints, can help reduce inflammation and improve gut health. 

What is your favorite quarantine snack?

Avocado with garlic salt

What’s one simple plant-based dish our readers can recreate at home, less than 30 minutes and eat multiple times throughout the week?

Cook Quinoa/rice – stove top or rice cooker

On the stove or in the crock pot:

  • 1 package Plant-based meat/protein
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper or taco seasoning

Once cooked – can eat as burrito bowl, taco or burrito

Plant based living is becoming more and more popular. When eating a mostly plant based / vegetarian diet, are there certain foods to focus on to make sure we’re getting enough nutrients and protein?

I think that one of the most important things with plant based foods is to make sure to stay away from processed foods, especially as there are many substitute food products.  It is important for there to be adequate protein intake each day.  While we may eat a lot of fruit and veggies, we need the protein as our building blocks for our cells. Lastly, making sure that enough Vitamin B12 intake on a daily basis is important. 

Do you have any plant-based nutrition tips to fight coronavirus?

Plant-based nutrition in general could be very helpful in immune system support as it promotes the intake of fruit, grains, saturated fats, veggies and fiber.  It can be helpful to cut out or decrease dairy intake.  Dairy can create inflammation and phlegm, which can create stagnation in the airways. Since the coronavirus affects the respiratory system, it can be helpful to decrease any factors that could contribute in negative ways. 

Speaking of plant based, what are some of the benefits of drinking chlorophyll water / benefits of liquid chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll has many amazing health benefits.  I like to think of chlorophyll as an internal cleaner, detoxifier, and restorer.  The phytochemicals and phytonutrients are helpful to get rid of toxins in blood stream as well as provide the contents to repair damaged tissue. This is done through the vitamins and minerals that oxygenate and increase blood production, which increases cell function within the body to promote well-being and the immune system.  It may be helpful at this time to take chlorophyll as immune system support as well as help get rid of oxidative stress from the anxiety and emotional stress that we feel at this time. 

What’s one of your favorite organic/natural supplements or vitamins you recommended?

Huang Qi – Astragulus

Bai zhu – White Atractylodis root

Chuan xin lian - Andrographis

Sheng jiang - Ginger

Gan cao - Licorice

Gui zhi - Cinnamon

Da zao – Chinese dates

Gou qi zi – gojiberries


Vitamin C, D, Zinc


What are three things you are most grateful for during these uncertain times?

Having a home to shelter in place and cook

The sun

Friends and family to converse with

During these uncertain times how do you stay positive? What’s your secret?

Staying off social media and news outlets. It can be easy to get caught up with the plethora of information and get ourselves to overthink and feel overwhelmed.  I intentionally set aside time to turn inwards, whether it’s through meditating or just sitting in silence, to stay grounded and present.  Also, appreciating the little things like time, family/friends, good conversations, naps, the sun, whatever it may be for you on a personal level, that are available to us even though we are in lockdown mode. 

Any self-care, self-care or self-development tips for our readers?

Think of all of the things that you said you wanted to do but couldn’t because of lack of time, work, scheduled events, etc. Things like: Cooking, reading, working out, thinking of business ideas, reconnecting with friends, learning something new, meditating, etc.  Now that we have more time, honor yourself and go do them.  This is the time to reset and re-establish and practice healthy habits.  It’s easy to lounge and be sedentary on a mental, physical and emotional level, especially with TV shows, phones, tablets, etc.  However, the challenge is what you will do to be productive with all this time.  How will you honor yourself?  How will you take care and be kind and gentle to yourself?  How will you stay connected and grounded within yourself? 

Where can our readers find you? (Instagram, Facebook, etc)

Facebook: @shindilaiacu

Instagram: sdl.acurn

Yelp: Shin-Di Lai Acupuncture


Anything else you want to add? Any other health, wellness or nutrition tips?

Look for acupuncturists who are still seeing patients or are offering telemedicine appointments.  Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture/acupressure can be extremely helpful in prevention and treatment on mental/psychological, emotional and physical levels.  As Chinese Medicine is a natural medicine, acupuncturists are an amazing source of

Do one thing each day that is healthy for yourself.  Continue to put yourself as a priority.  Take it day by day.