Written by: Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC April 18, 2020
Our immune system is a complex composition of organs, tissues, and cells in our body. Its essential role is to protect us from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that can cause disease. Living in a world with variety of harmful pathogens that may cause illness, many of us are interested in bolstering our immune system so that our body is optimal to fight off foreign invaders.
There are many dietary approaches to strengthen our immune system, but it’s important to also realize it takes a combination of a healthy diet and measures such as personal hygiene, proper hand-washing, and reducing contact with those who are sick to really protect us from developing pathogen-causing illnesses. In addition,
maintaining a healthy lifestyle of not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, exercising regularly and eating a balanced and healthy diet are just as important aspects to protecting our immune system.
A focus on eating foods rich in powerful nutrients is one of the most sought out ways to support a healthy and strong immune system. A diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, antioxidants, whole grains, fiber and healthy fats is one of the best ways to give our immune system a natural boost. Be mindful of foods that go through extensive processing because these foods often lose some nutrients during processing, in which supplementation or fortification of nutrients to the foods might occur. It may also be beneficial to supplement our diet with a high-quality multivitamin and fish oil to ensure we meet our daily nutrient needs. To further optimize our immune system, it is advised to limit alcohol and high sugar intake as both may suppress our immune system. Our immune system works hard to protect us every day, let’s be sure to do things that can help it out.
Learn which immune-boosting foods to include in your diet, so you stay healthy during seasons of cold and flu:
- Vitamin A-rich foods: Sweet potatoes, carrots, Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, eggs.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: Berries, broccoli, kiwi, papaya, kale, red bell pepper, orange, lemon, lime, clementine.
- Adequate Vitamin D intake: Dairy products or nondairy products that provide calcium and Vitamin D, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna or sardines, eggs, tofu, mushrooms, fortified orange juice.
- Omega 3-rich foods: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines, nuts, seeds
- Healthy gut promoting foods: Whole grains, avocados, citrus, berries, legumes, flax-seed, nuts, foods with prebiotics such as garlic, onion, asparagus, leeks, banana and fermented foods with probiotics such as kefir, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha
- Zinc-rich foods: Poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, whole grains, mushrooms, dark leafy greens