Tennessean Op-Ed by John Dyke

How healthy choices can boost your immune system| Opinion

As a local organic grocer for nearly two decades, I am grateful that science continues to support the idea that consuming a healthy diet will improve immunity.

John Dyke, Guest Columnist

Along with crisp temperatures and blue skies, the fall in Middle Tennessee brings the unwelcome elements of increased colds and viruses.

As a local organic grocer for nearly two decades, I am grateful that science continues to support what farmers and others living close to nature have known all along: Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will improve immunity — while consuming highly processed foods can harm your health.

When I started the Turnip Truck in East Nashville about 20 years ago, I set out to bring the farm-fresh foods I grew up enjoying to my city neighbors.

After crossing paths with them at farmers markets and health stores across Nashville, I knew there was demand for natural fare in the heart of the city.

Healthy food helps boost your immune system

New research proves the generational wisdom I’ve followed on this path: Food truly fuels immunity. Along with eliminating toxic stress, staying physically active and drinking plenty of clean water, medical research has zeroed in on a healthy microbiome as a critical factor in overall immunity.

Commonly referred to as “gut health,” the microbiome plays a key role in fighting off illnesses and diseases. Fortunately, in Nashville we have access to plentiful seasonal sources of gut-healthy prebiotics and probiotics.

While probiotic foods contain live beneficial bacteria, prebiotics feed and maintain those bacteria. Together they uphold the complex center of microorganisms responsible for helping the body stay well.

Many are familiar with probiotic foods, including yogurt with live cultures, and fermented foods including kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha tea. Add prebiotics in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains to support the probiotics’ work. Readily available root vegetables such as onions and garlic are excellent prebiotic choices.

How to keep your body strong this winter

Whether you’re just starting out on your road to an immune-boosting diet or you have mastered the art of eating for health, there are practical steps you can take this winter to keep your body strong. I recommend starting with seasonal fare.

In Middle Tennessee, savor autumnal choices, from butternut squash and pumpkins to satisfy root vegetables.

Not only are in-season items fresher and tastier, they are also less likely to be processed, upping their nutritional value.

It’s old advice, but it certainly rings true for immunity: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The freshest items – including produce and all perishables – are around the outer ring of the floorplan, with more processed items (boxed, canned or bagged) lining the center aisles.

Fill most of your cart with perishable items, especially vegetables and fruits. Supplement, but only as needed. We believe a clean supplement can be highly beneficial — particularly during cold-and-flu season.

However, by eating a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables you can eliminate the necessity of supplements, making them truly supplementary and not essential.

By thinking of food as preventive medicine, we can eat our way toward a healthier and more delicious winter.


John Dyke is the founder and CEO of Nashville’s only full service, locally owned natural foods grocer,  the Turnip Truck.


Turnip Truck Wins Progressive Grocer Award!

In recognition of the unique challenges presented by the worst public-health crisis in more than a century, Progressive Grocer honored those resilient independents that were the most creative and undaunted in overcoming the myriad difficulties presented by COVID-19.

“Turnip Truck exists to serve our neighbors, and 2020 was a test of our commitment to that mission. I’m proud of the way our team rallied to ensure a safe shopping experience, and of the opportunities, we’ve had to give back to the city we love.”

– John Dyke, founder and owner of Turnip Truck

Progressive Grocer Award 2021 Article