If you want to boost your immune health, you may wonder how to help your body fight off illnesses.
While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens or disease-causing organisms.
Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens.
The fiber in plant foods feeds your gut microbiome or the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. The robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract
Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables provide nutrients—like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E—that can boost immune function. Because many vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, they help reduce oxidative stress.
Beta-Carotene: Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the body. Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamins C and E: Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. Sources of vitamin C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E sources include nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli.
Vitamin D: Research shows vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. Increased vitamin D in the blood has been linked to the prevention of other chronic diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis, and cardiovascular disease. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified cereals and plant-based milk and supplements.
Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that can help boost white blood cells, which defend against invaders. Sources include nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils.
Green veggies provide anti-inflammatory antioxidants, as well as key nutrients, are known to help the immune system function, including vitamins A and C, and folate. They also provide bioactive compounds that release a chemical signal that optimizes immunity in the gut, the location of 70-80% of immune cells. Saute veggies with garlic, turmeric, and black pepper, or add them to the soup. You can also blend leafy greens, like kale or spinach, into a smoothie.
Maximizing the health of your immune system is easy when you know which foods to eat. The immune system is your body’s great defender. It helps stop incoming attacks from viruses and bacteria. It helps your cells bounce back after illness. It can even help reduce the severity of illness. That’s why, especially when viruses and bugs are making the rounds in your community or even just in your home, you should pay a little extra attention to your immune system.