Eat Well to Support a Strong Immune System
Staying well and avoiding chronic disease is important, of course, but it also is important to fend off more common illnesses such as the flu, a cold and covid variants. To that end, having a strong immune system can benefit our efforts to stay well.
There are many factors that can impact our immune system, and some have to do with our nutrition. Here are some tips for boosting immunity.
These can have a negative impact on your immune system:
- Inadequate sleep
- Excess weight which can cause low grade inflammation, suppressing immunity
- Poor diet quality, lacking in supportive nutrients
- Poorly managed chronic diseases such as diabetes, and high blood pressure
These factors can boost your immune system:
- A good night of sleep
- Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling chronic diseases through diet, exercise and prescribed medications
- Good hydration
- Healthful food choices with a variety of nutrients and a limit on ultra-processed foods
There are some specific nutrients that seem to be especially helpful in building a strong immune system:
- Zinc – found in seafood, beans, nuts, and tofu
- Beta-carotene – found in colorful produce such as sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and berries
- Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli and greens
- Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin – found in fatty fish, eggs, milk, and fortified milk-replacements
- Protein – animal protein (fish, eggs, dairy, poultry and red meats) or vegetable-based (dried beans and peas, soy products, and nuts)
Let us not forget about the health defense provided by the trillions of good bacteria in our intestinal tract. They fight off illnesses and invaders by neutralizing them. There are steps you can take to protect and maintain gut bacteria diversity and quantity:
- Bump up your fiber intake from a variety of sources including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains to feed the bacteria.
- Reduce intake of foods that may kill off healthy bacteria such as those foods high in salt, additives and preservatives.
- Enjoy fermented food products such as yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, kombucha tea which can add to your own natural bacteria population.
And finally, if you have a chronic disease already such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease or high blood pressure, work with your health care provider to keep it well-managed to support your immune system.
By: Rita Smith, RD