By Florence Milano
Our immune system requires attention as we get older. Many elderly suffer from chronic low-level inflammation and other underlying health issues such as heart disease and diabetes, which makes the body’s mechanism even weaker. Additionally, a child’s capacity to absorb certain infection-fighting vitamins and minerals may be compromised.
Being healthy and fighting off sickness has never been more important, and the foods you eat can have an immense impact on how well your immune system works.
You cannot improve your immune system by changing your diet today. But boosting your nutrition now will improve your health and decrease your chances of getting sick in the long run.
Read on to learn more about the foods you can eat to boost your immune system.
Foods and Nutrients for Your Immune System
Your body uses and absorbs nutrients more efficiently when it comes from fresh foods like fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods or supplements. That’s why you should definitely add a variety of foods and nutrients in your diet instead of focusing on a large portion of the same food groups.
The more vibrant your dish is, the better, there’s really no excuse because variety is the spice of life. Take a look below for some of the nutrient-rich food ingredients you can start adding to your meals today!
1. Foods That Contain Vitamin C
It has been shown that Vitamin C helps increase the development of white blood cells that are vital for fighting infection.
Some Vitamin C-enriched foods include oranges, kiwi, lemon, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, bell peppers, cauliflower, white potatoes, kale and other citrus fruits and vegetables.
2. Foods Rich in Vitamin A
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A) is an anti-inflammatory vitamin that can aid in the response of antibodies to threats such as viruses. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that makes it easier to absorb if you eat foods high in healthy fats.
Some examples of Vitamin A-enriched foods are carrots, turnips, garlic, beets, onions, peas, lettuce, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cantaloupe and dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach.
3. Foods That Are High in Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps regulate and protect your immune system and cells from damage. It boosts your immunity and prevents blood clots from developing in heart arteries.
Vitamin E-enriched foods are sunflower seeds, pistachios, hazelnuts, blackberries, almonds, peanuts, avocado, mango, raspberries, green beans, and green leafy vegetables.
4. Foods and Beverages Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants help your T-cells create germ-fighting chemicals, reducing inflammation and fighting infection.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants include wholegrain cereals, berries, turmeric, nuts, cinnamon, extra virgin olive oil, yogurt, and citrus fruits.
5. Foods That Contain Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps prevent or lessen the intensity of respiratory infections, especially if you have a deficiency. It helps your body absorb and maintain adequate calcium and phosphorus levels essential for bone growth and maintenance.
Examples of Vitamin D-rich foods include beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, fortified milk, cereals and juices, eggs, and oily fish (such as salmon and tuna).
6. Foods That Are Rich in Zinc
The immune system cells need zinc to function normally. It metabolizes nutrients and uses it to grow and repair body tissue.
Examples of Zinc-enriched foods include oysters, crabs, lobsters, beef, pork, chicken, kale, mushrooms, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk and dairy, and dark chocolate.
7. Foods That Contain Probiotics
Probiotics help activate the immune system to combat disease. The good bacteria (also known as the microbiome) in your digestive system influence how other nutrients and harmful bacteria are digested in your body, making probiotics one of the most critical immune functions. The microbiome supports digestion and acts as a second line of protection against harmful bacteria and fungi.
Examples of probiotics-enriched foods include fermented vegetables (kimchi, beets, carrots and pickles), fermented fruits (green papaya, jams and pickled jackfruit), fermented condiments (relish, salsas, pickled ginger and ketchup), yogurt, and sour cream.
8. Foods with High Water Content
Proper hydration is a way to make it easier for immune-boosting nutrients to get to your body. Some examples of foods with high water content are cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, celery and Brussel sprouts. You can also try water with lemon, cucumber, watermelon or mint.
You can protect your immune system through numerous foods, but you do not have to eat all that is mentioned above. You have the freedom to pick and choose based on your preference, what’s realistic for you and what your doctor suggests.
Foods that Make Your Immune System Weak
It’s not just about what you put in your body, but about what you keep out too. Eating chips, fast foods and other unhealthy comfort foods aren’t conducive to a healthy diet.
While these foods don’t need to be banned outright, try to avoid consuming too much of these immune-depleting substances:
- Processed foods
- Fried foods
- Highly refined carbs and more
You can also make adjustments to your lifestyle to improve your immune system by:
In a Nutshell
These foods and nutrients have been proven to aid in the most efficient and effective functioning immune system, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Make sure to avoid unhealthy snacks, eat foods that are rich in nutrients in moderation and avoid overdoing it.
Now that you’ve learned about immunity-boosting nutrients and foods, it’s easier to keep track of what you eat! Download the RENPHO Health app to learn more about nutrition, health and other fitness-related tips.