Eating to Boost Your Immune System: Myths and Tips

Immune system-boosting foods including broccoli, red pepper, lemons, ginger and legumes

It’s the time of year when it seems like everyone is sick. No one has time for feeling unwell, and it can take many steps to stay healthy over the winter.

Does eating healthy keep you well? Are there certain foods that provide extra immunity? The media says yes. You can find foods promising extra immunity in any grocery store. Do they work?

What is Your Immune System?

Our immune system protects us from harmful microbes, infections and diseases. The immune system is a combination of many components that fight infection and keep us well, including white blood cells, antibodies and the lymphatic system, just to name a few. Additionally, our skin, lungs and digestive track play a significant role in preventing illness.

Eating well and taking supplements cannot prevent illness. The best way to prevent illness is by regularly washing your hands, avoiding people who are ill and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. It’s a misconception that certain vitamins can prevent you from getting sick. That being said, you can optimize your diet to ensure your nutrition is in top-notch shape to help your body fight any illness that comes your way.

Staying Well

You can take lots of steps to stay well during the course of winter. Taking care of yourself can help you fight off illness.

What Should You Eat?

Your immune system relies on a variety of foods in a mixed diet. These foods will help prepare your body to fight infection and feel its best. Eating a certain food cannot prevent an illness, but it can help your body respond to one. Diets full of processed foods that lack nutrients can negatively affect your immune system. To promote your overall wellbeing, choose a diet rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

We also know that your body’s microbiome is linked to your immune system. The millions of microorganisms in your gut play a key role in your immunity. Your diet will determine what microbes live in your gut. A diet full of fruits, vegetables and legumes supports beneficial microbes in your body.

Vitamins and Your Immune System

Although vitamins cannot prevent illness, there are some vitamins that can help you fight off what may come your way. A deficiency in these vitamins can be detrimental to your immune system. Eating whole foods can give you beneficial nutrients, but consider a multivitamin to ensure you get exactly what your body needs.

  • Vitamin C – Add citrus, red peppers, spinach and broccoli to your diet. Vitamin C can increase the production of white blood cells which help fight infection.
  • Vitamin D – Salmon, tuna, egg yolks and fortified foods (i.e. milk) provide Vitamin D. It’s not uncommon to be deficient in this vitamin and require a supplement. Vitamin D enhances the function of immune cells.
  • Zinc – Beef, crab and oysters are rich with zinc. Zinc helps maintain skin cells and the internal lining of cells to prevent infection.
  • Vitamin E – A serving of almonds, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens or avocado can boost your immune function with Vitamin E.

Stay healthy this season!

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