Now more than ever is the time to be thinking about ways to build your immune system. What you eat is an essential part of keeping yourself healthy. Food is the fuel that influences how your body will respond to stressors. Choosing foods that contain nutrients proven to support a healthy immune system should be a way of life if you are looking to reduce your risk of disease. To help you make good choices we have compiled a list of great immunity boosting food options. Scientific research agrees these 5 types of nutrients are highly important in maintaining a healthy immune system.
A powerful antioxidant known for fighting free radicals which are unstable molecules in our body that damage the immune system. To add more vitamin C in your diet try these foods.
- Citrus and Fruit Juices
- Kiwi fruit
- Red and green peppers
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals in the body. Research suggests that Vitamin E can even help protect the body against several infectious diseases. It also suggests maintaining ample levels of vitamin E is crucial especially among older people. To get your fill of vitamin E, look to these foods:
- Wheat germ oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Peanut butter
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production of certain immune cells. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) caution that even mildly low levels of zinc may impair your immune function. Here are some top food sources of zinc:
- Baked beans
- Raisin bran
Another type of antioxidant, carotenoids are a class of pigments found naturally in a number of plants. When consumed, carotenoids are converted into vitamin A (a nutrient that helps regulate the immune system). Carotenoids are better absorbed when cooked or eaten with fat. Look to these foods to boost your carotenoids:
- Sweet potato
- Collard greens
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid known to suppress inflammation and keep the immune system in check. Although it is not known whether omega-3s can help fight off infections (such as the common cold), research suggests that omega-3s can protect against autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Try these omega-3-rich foods:
- Oily fish (including mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, and trout)
- Chia seeds
Although good food choices are a large part of a healthy immune system, we should be reminded of 2 other key lifestyle factors that play a role. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. Also keep in mind that taking a vitamin, mineral, or herbal supplement is no replacement for eating a variety of healthy food. There is limited evidence that supplements beyond filling nutritional gaps, make a difference. Make no mistake about it; eating healthfully — at least most of the time — is your best defense against diseases. And the best part? Good nutrition really does taste great.