Eating to Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system is the body’s natural defense against infections and diseases.
A healthy immune system is key to staying healthy and feeling your best, and diet plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Eating a balanced and diverse diet with plenty of whole foods will provide naturally-occurring nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants to help strengthen your immune system. Try to limit highly processed foods that may be stripped of nutrients through its production. Strive for diversity in your diet in order to get a wide spectrum of nutrients and exposure to different healthy gut bacteria. In fact, about 70% of our immunity comes from our gut! (Learn more about your gut and immunity here). When you feed your gut with foods that support and provide healthy bacteria, otherwise known as prebiotics and probiotics, it has an extensive impact on your immune system.
There are a few key nutrients to focus on that can help strengthen your immune system. These include Vitamin C and Vitamin E, both are antioxidants that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and help boost production of white blood cells, which are essential to fight off infections. Vitamin A is another important nutrient for a healthy immune system. It helps maintain the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes, which act as the first line of defense against pathogens. In addition to vitamins, minerals: zinc and selenium are important to the immune system.
Here are some of the best immune-boosting foods to add to your diet
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, are rich in vitamin C.
Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, are also rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. They are also a good source of fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy and promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, are packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, which are essential for immune system function. Leafy greens are also a good source of folate, which helps produce new cells and repair DNA.
Garlic has been well known for its medicinal properties including its immune-boosting effects. Garlic contains compounds that have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Ginger is another spice with immune-boosting effects. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Ginger also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, and it may help boost immune system function.
Turmeric is a spice, and it has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to boost immune system function and help prevent chronic diseases.
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy and they are rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help keep your gut healthy and support immune system function. Probiotics may also help reduce inflammation in the body, which can weaken the immune system. Other foods with probiotics are kefir, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which have been shown to have immune-boosting effects. Green tea may also help reduce inflammation in the body and improve gut health.
In addition to eating a diet rich in immune-boosting foods, it is important to stay hydrated, exercise, have adequate sleep, manage stress and not smoke to help maintain a strong immune system and keep it functioning at its best.
Written by: Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC and FitPros Wellbeing Speaker
Find more out about Julie Tang Nutrition HERE
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