Nutrition profoundly affects our immune system, according to Harvard researchers. Stay healthy this winter by eating nutrient-dense foods with immune-supporting nutrients.
There’s no specific diet that keeps sickness at bay. Instead, consuming foods containing vitamin C, D, Zinc, and Iron boosts immunity. Eating a healthy diet higher in pre/probiotic foods, while decreasing sugar and processed food, helps our body fight off viruses, bacteria, and disease.
5 Nutrients that Support Your Immune System
Vitamin C is commonly taken during cold and flu season because of its ability to increase white blood cells. White blood cells help fight infection in the body, thus encouraging a strong immune system. You can find Vitamin C in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, red bell pepper, kiwi, and cantaloupe.
Orange juice is a popular choice while fighting infection and it does contain high levels of vitamin C. However, it is high in sugar. Reach for whole, fibrous citrus fruits to watch your sugar intake.
Zinc is a vital mineral for overall growth and development. It supports the immune system through cell-reproduction and fighting free radicals that contribute to inflammation. Systemic inflammation makes our bodies vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections.
Zinc moves through the body daily, so eating plenty each day is important. Fill your plate with shellfish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes. For all you steak lovers, good news! Just 3.5 oz of red meat contains over 40% of your daily zinc needs.
Vitamin D deficiency increases our vulnerability to both autoimmune disease and a weakened immune system. Vitamin D is different from other vitamins because our body both produces it as a hormone, and it can be consumed in some foods.
Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially during the winter months. During sunny seasons our body absorbs Vitamin D via sunlight. With increased cloud cover during the winter, vitamin D levels go down.
Sources of Vitamin D include taking supplements and going outside on sunny cold days is recommended, as well as adding foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. Orange juice and milk are often fortified with vitamin D, as well as cereals. Natural food sources include sardines, cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna, egg yolks, and beef liver.
An essential nutrient we must get from food, it stores up in the body. Having a reserve of iron as we consume it through foods, helps our body better absorb and utilize it. Iron provides immune system support by aiding oxygen to move through the red blood cells. Deficiencies can show up as anemia and fatigue.
Enjoy plenty of fish, legumes, quinoa, spinach, and pumpkin seeds to maintain healthy iron levels. Moderate intake of red meat and organ meats are also great sources.
Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods
Supplements help with nutrient deficiencies but aim to get vitamins and minerals from natural sources. Prebiotics, only found in high fibrous foods, lay a strong foundation for our immune system. They’re non-digestible, ferment within the gut, altering the microbiome of our gastrointestinal system.
The gut is increasingly becoming a place of research and exploration, as nutritional scientists discover the profound effect our microbiome has on health, including the immune system. Add onions, garlic, bananas, chicory root, barley, apples, and oats for increased prebiotics.
Probiotics are more commonly known but serve a different purpose than prebiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that live, grow and build a healthy microbiome. Increasing research supports how probiotics support our nervous system, digestion, and mental health.
Healthy bacteria create a strong gut lining, protecting it from viruses and unhealthy bacteria. Probiotics are both in supplement and natural foods like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, unpasteurized pickles, and pickled foods.
Our daily choices have a powerful effect on our immune system function. Boost your immune system by increasing your intake of immune system nutrients by eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, participating in regular exercise and reducing stress. If you’d like to support your immune system with exercise, visit ProHealth Pilates & Physical Therapy in Peachtree City.