Let’s focus on food to boost your immune system. What you eat can greatly improve your chances of successfully battling viruses or other pathogens that dare cross your path.
Here’s what the research shows …
- A varied diet of healthy, whole foods is the best source of nutrients. No individual food is the key. Key nutrients in plant and animal foods for growth and strength of immune cells are vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium, iron and proteins.
- What we eat determines what kinds of microbes live in our intestines. The gut is the center of immune activity and is where antimicrobial proteins are produced.
- Half your plate should be veggies and fruit, other half split between lean protein and grains.
- Fruits and vegetables: Their nutrients help your immune system battle viruses and bacteria. Frozen vegetables are generally better than canned, but canned veggies are better than none.
- Choose fruits and veggies to get a rainbow of colors that provide key vitamins and nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that fight harmful pathogens. Antioxidants ease inflammation by fighting unstable compounds known as free radicals. (Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.)
- Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains load you up with prebiotics. There are many great sources: garlic, onions, spinach, broccoli, bananas, watermelon, oats, quinoa, salmon, eggs, chicken, turkey and more.
- Another key is fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt and more. They feed good bacteria in your gut. Probiotic supplements can help if you don’t like these foods.
- Healthy fats reduce inflammation, helping your immune system fight off diseases. Choose olive oil, salmon, chia seeds or nuts.
Mediterranean Diet a Winner
One formula shown to increase immune-boosting cells, like T-cells, is the Mediterranean diet, with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. A classic Mediterranean diet is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, made up largely of olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, yogurt, cheese and moderate daily consumption of red wine.
A Bad Diet is a Bad Idea
If you eat unhealthy foods, it impairs production and activity of immune cells and antibodies. If you eat a lot of processed foods, immune function suffers. The classic Western diet, high in sugars and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables, unsettles the balance of healthy intestinal micro-organisms. That brings inflammation of the gut and suppressed immunity. Refined sugars and carbs contribute to being overweight or obese, increasing the chances you’ll get sick.
Jill Strand and Chris Radke are owners and certified trainers at UpLift Guided Fitness in Woodbury. 651.209.6778