How Nutrition Boosts Your Immune System

Let’s focus on food to boost your immune system. What you eat can greatly improve your chances of successfully battling a coronavirus or other pathogen that dares cross your path!

Here’s what the research shows… 

• A varied diet of healthy, whole foods is the best source of nutrients. No individual food is the key. Key nutrients in plant and animal foods for growth and strength of immune cells are: vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium, iron, and proteins.

• What we eat determines what kinds of microbes live in our intestines. This is huge! The gut is the center of immune activity and it’s where antimicrobial proteins are produced.

• Half your plate should be veggies and fruit, other half split between lean protein and grains.

• Fruits and vegetables: their nutrients help your immune system battle viruses and bacteria. Wash fresh versions. Frozen vegetables are generally better than canned. Canned veggies are better than no veggies.

• Choose fruits and veggies to get a “rainbow of colors” that provides key vitamins and nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that fight harmful pathogens. Antioxidants ease inflammation by fighting unstable compounds known as free radicals. (Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s.)

• Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains load you up with prebiotics. Great sources: garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, spinach, broccoli, bananas, tart cherries or tart cherry juice, watermelon, oats, barley, millet, quinoa, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, various colors bell peppers, nuts, berries, tuna, salmon, eggs, yogurt with live cultures (such as Greek yogurt), chicken, turkey, bison, oysters, shrimp.

• Another key is fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and natto. They feed good bacteria in your gut. Probiotic supplements can help if you don’t like these foods.

• Healthy fats reduce inflammation, helping your immune system fight off diseases. Choose olive oil, salmon, chia seeds, nuts. Olive oil is celebrated for its monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. Can reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Olive oil as primary fat source = reduced risk of “all-causes mortality,” heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. And it can help you fight off bacteria and viruses.

Mediterranean Diet a Winner

One formula shown to increase immune-boosting cells like T-cells: eat a Mediterranean diet with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Classic Mediterranean diet is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, made up largely of olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, yogurt, cheese, and moderate daily consumption of red wine.

A Bad Diet is a Bad Idea

If you eat unhealthy foods, it impairs production and activity of immune cells and antibodies. Malnutrition breaks down and suppresses the immune system.

If you eat a lot of processed foods, immune function suffers. The classic Western diet high in sugars and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables unsettles the balance of healthy intestinal microorganisms. That brings inflammation of the gut and suppressed immunity.

Refined sugars and carbs contribute to being overweight or obese, increasing the chances you’ll get sick.

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Jill Strand

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