What you eat on a daily basis can have a dramatic effect on your immune system’s ability to do its job and keep you healthy. Making just a few dietary changes can significantly improve your health and strengthen your immune system.
Research has long shown that nutrition plays an important role in our immune health. Certain foods have consistently been shown to strengthen our immune response, making it less likely we become sick.
Foods that Strengthen the Immune System
There are loads of healthy foods that have been shown to improve and strengthen immune function. Basically, any deep-colored vegetable or fruit will contain vitamins, minerals and/or phytonutrients that can help the body and immune system perform at it’s best.
In particular several foods can super-charge the immune system:
Cruciferous vegetables – including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale – are packed with compounds that are good for just about every aspect of your health. In particular, broccoli and broccoli sprouts are good sources of a sulfur compound called sulforaphane that may help boost the immune system.
Studies have also found that sulforaphane can have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, so be sure and eat a serving or two or broccoli several times weekly.
Foods that Contain Zinc
Research has clearly shown that zinc is essential to the proper functioning of the immune system and most people don’t get enough of it, leading to sub-optimal immune function.
Good sources of zinc include:
- pumpkin seeds
- baked beans
- chicken breast
Citrus fruits contain ample amounts of vitamin C and bioflavonoids that have been consistently shown to improve many facets of the system.
Vitamin C contributes to immune defenses by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function (in the skin, GI tract, respiratory tract and urinary tract) against pathogens and promotes the free-radical scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress.
Vitamin C also accumulates in specific immune cells, such as neutrophils and lymphocytes, and can enhance their ability to fight and kill bacteria and viruses.
Conversely, Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections significantly lower vitamin C levels in the body and supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.
Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100–200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels; this can certainly be accomplished with a healthy diet. In contrast, treatment of established infections requires significantly higher (1-6 gram) doses of the vitamin to compensate for the increased inflammatory response and metabolic demand.
Eating citrus fruits, deep colored berries and cruciferous vegetables daily is a great way to meet the average daily requirements, while supplemental vitamin C can be used to meet acute and/or chronic needs.
The benefits of garlic on human health have been proclaimed for centuries; however, only recently have Allium sativum and its derivatives been proposed as promising candidates for maintaining and enhancing the immune system.
Garlic appears to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain cell types – such as macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils – making it easier for them to identify, target and eliminate foreign invaders.
Garlic has also shown a remarkable ability to reduce inflammation, prevent cancer and protect us from a variety of disorders ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes and obesity.
Eat garlic any way that you can – raw, baked, sautéed or as an infused oil – it’s likely to be the single best thing you can do for your health.