8 Foods That Support Your Immune System, Says Dietitian
A strong immune system is critical for our overall health and well-being, especially given our fast-paced and demanding lives. As we face various environmental challenges, it’s essential to provide our bodies with the necessary nutrients to support a robust immune response. While there’s no magic pill for a bulletproof immune system, certain immune system foods can play a significant role in bolstering our body’s defenses.
By incorporating these nutrient-rich immune system foods into your diet, you can give your body the best chance to fight off illnesses and infections more effectively. It’s important to note that a balanced and plant-forward diet filled with fiber-rich produce, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals is the key to optimal immune function. No single food is magical, but in a society where only one in ten of us consumes the recommended number of daily fruits and veggies, these foods are valuable additions that complement a well-rounded approach to support the immune system.
1. Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids
EPA and DHA found in seafood are also found in every cell of our body. Getting enough EPA and DHA omega-3s in our diet can help keep our important body systems functioning well. In the body, EPA and DHA also play a role in supporting the resolution of inflammation that results from fighting illness. This means that these nutrients may be able to support your body during and after an infection or illness.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It contains compounds like allicin that can help fight infection against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. While it doesn’t substitute for taking antibiotics when you need them, garlic is an excellent food to include in your daily diet. It’s also a source of prebiotic fiber to promote gut health.
3. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt that contains live and active cultures is a great way to up your probiotic intake which are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut. Probiotics can help support the immune system and protect against infection. An added bonus is the vitamin D and protein to include in your immune-boosting breakfast recipe because that’s when it’s tougher for many of us to meet our protein needs.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals. Vitamin C also supports the production of white blood cells, which are important for fighting off infections. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and strawberries.
5. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, all of which are essential for a healthy immune system. Good sources of leafy green vegetables include kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard.
6. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds such as pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds, are rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage. They also contain zinc, which is important for immune function. Pistachios have a high antioxidant capacity that rivals that of popular antioxidant-containing foods like cranberries, blueberries, pomegranate, and red wine to help protect from free radical damage by preventing the oxidation of cells. They are also a source of complete plant-based protein with all the essential amino acids our body cannot make on its own.
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, are rich in polyphenols which are antioxidants that help to protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. They also contain vitamin C, which supports immune function. Berries are so versatile they are very easy to incorporate into any immune-boosting breakfast recipe.
Beans are a good source of protein, fiber, iron, zinc, and other important nutrients for immune function. Zinc is essential for several immune functions, including the production of white blood cells which are the body’s first line of defense against infection. Iron is essential for red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Beans are also a source of antioxidants, which can help to protect cells from damage, and fiber to support a healthy digestive system.