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Boost your Immune System with Nutrition

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The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against viruses, bacteria and infections. When the immune system is strong, it keeps us healthy and fights off disease.  But when the immune system is weakened by stress, poor sleep, or nutritional deficiencies we are more apt to get sick.  Try these immune boosting nutrients and spices to protect yourself:

Vitamin C: This vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant that is used to keep the body strong and healthy and can reduce the durations of cold symptoms. What’s more, taking 200 mg of vitamin c daily can cut the risk of getting a cold for most active adults.  Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron.  Good sources include citrus fruits such as strawberries, lemons, oranges, kiwi, and grapefruit as well as vegetables like broccoli, red and green peppers, tomatoes, spinach and other leafy greens.

Zinc:  This mineral helps to keep the immune system strong and helps with the development and function of immune cells.  Research has shown that a deficiency of zinc impairs the immune system.  Good sources of zinc include, oysters, chicken, mushrooms, kale, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating and strengthening immunity.  Studies have shown that participants who take vitamin D daily are less likely to catch a cold or an upper respiratory tract infection over those who did not.  Good sources include egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as vitamin D fortified foods like milk, orange juice and soy milk

Oats:  Oatmeal contains beta glucan and this has shown to be an effective immune boosting ingredient.  A daily bowl of oatmeal can help you get your fill.

Cayenne Pepper:  This spice is high in capsaicin which is anti-inflammatory and works as an antioxidant to protect the body from damaging free radicals.

Turmeric:  This common Indian kitchen spice has a broad range of benefits.  It contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant compound, which bolsters the immune system by activating the production of T-cells that work to keep us healthy.  Additionally, this spice helps to strengthen digestion and eliminate toxins from the GI tract.

Garlic: This spice is anti-microbial but also tops the charts for its antifungal properties.  Garlic can also help multiply immune boosting white blood cells

Ginger:  This spice has been shown to soothe stomach upset, but also helps to fight infection.  Inflammation has been shown to impact the body’s immune response, the anti-inflammatory properties in this herb play a vital role in boosting immunity.

Green Tea:  This tea is full of flavonoids, an antioxidant that boosts immunity.  Another particular antioxidant in green tea catechin, provides powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties which can kill off cold starting bacteria.   

Probiotics:  Your intestinal tract is home to 70-80% of your immune system, so you need to have a healthy intestinal tract in order to have a strong immune system. Foods rich in probiotics can help keep the intestinal track healthy.  Some good sources include fermented foods like sauerkraut tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, as well as miso and yogurt with live cultures.

Beta Carotene: Beta carotene is found in plant foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, red and yellow peppers, cantaloupe, apricots, romaine lettuce, and dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale.

Which foods should I choose? Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods every day and year round will help to incorporate all of these nutrients into your diet. Experiment with different foods in smoothies such as spinach, strawberries, yogurt, nuts, or oranges. Or load up a salad with a bunch of your favorite vegetables! Try choosing at least 3 different colored vegetables to incorporate a wide variety of nutrients.

What about supplements? Supplements are an easy and convenient way to add nutrients to your diet that you may be lacking. Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated for safety in the way that our food is; this can make it easy to overdo it. Some vitamins and minerals can be harmful when consumed in excess, so it is important to talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking any supplements.

What is the take-away? While varying your food choices to incorporate these vital nutrients can support immune cell growth and function, it is important to recognize that no food can prevent or cure a virus. In addition to supporting immune function, choosing a variety of nutritious foods is a great way to support your overall health.

Are you lacking any of these nutrients in your daily plate? Speak with one of the WOAC dietitians today for support with personalizing your plate with diverse foods to support immunity and promote longevity! Email nutrition@waverleyoaks.com.