We are what we eat, and what we eat goes a long way in keeping our bodies in tip-top shape.
The same can be said about the immune system.
Just as eating healthy foods may help you boost your overall health, so can it help fend off against pathogens and illnesses.
We must mention that these foods aren’t silver bullets that would increase immunity from 0 to 100. But by pairing them with best practices to prevent illnesses, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding touching your face without first disinfecting your hands, these foods may help reduce your illness risks even further.
Here are eight foods that may help shore up your immune health.
1. Citrus fruits
Oranges are loaded with vitamin C, which is already synonymous with immune support. Grapefruits are just as good as a source of this essential immunity-boosting vitamin.
Vitamin C enables the immune system by repairing damaged tissue and maintaining cardiovascular and skin health. Vitamin C is also a well-known antioxidant, which helps fight against cell degradation.
Taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily has been shown to incrementally reduce the duration of a cold in adults and children. Although megadosing on vitamin C may not necessarily prevent you from catching the sniffles, it may help your immunity get over it sooner. High vitamin C doses may reduce the duration of annoying cold symptoms.
2. Green leafy vegetables
Don’t ditch the kale, spinach, and collard greens. These green leafy vegetables are rich in immune-boosting vitamin A, which has been shown to boost the immune system. It is thought that vitamin A affects the production of bone marrow, which is responsible for producing lymphocytes that fight infections. Moreover, green leafy veggies are packed with dietary nitrates, which possess anti-inflammatory and immune management properties.
3. Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers aren’t only tasty, but they are also packed with vitamins and C. If that’s not reason enough to start incorporating this colorful piece of produce into your diet, maybe the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s recommendation will. Last April 2020, the latter included red bell peppers into their essentials for a quarantine diet.
The vitamin C and A content in red bell peppers contain antioxidant and infection-fighting properties.
Yogurt, especially the Greek kind, is a fantastic protein source that keeps your bone and muscle health in top form. After all, healthy tissues are the frontliners against infections. Healthy skin, for instance, prevents pathogens from entering the body.
Yogurt also contains live probiotics or bacteria that boost your gut health. Gut health is essential for immune function and affects how a person can fight off or manage an infection altogether.
Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics that regulate the levels of gut bacteria, maintaining the good and reducing the bad ones in the gastrointestinal tract.
5. Green tea
Green tea is packed with nutrients rich in antioxidants that hinder cell damage. This includes catechins and polyphenols, which help the body’s cells to respond to threats more effectively.
For instance, in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was discovered that catechins found in green tea may boost t-cell response. T-cells are a type of lymphocyte known as one of the more prominent white blood cells that play an integral role in immune health by attacking viruses. Higher concentrations of t-cells were linked to a more responsive immune system.
Furthermore, polyphenols were found to have helped alert the body when an immediate immune response is required.
Ginger has long been prized in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger has been found to support immunity and may have some potential in cancer prevention.
The best part? There are so many ways you can consume ginger for its immune system benefits. From pills, teas, to raw ginger, to adding it as an ingredient to your recipes, fresh ginger is unmatched in effectiveness when used in tea or food preparations. It may be better than supplement form due to its full spectrum of benefits.
Moreover, turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family, is also known for its immunity-boosting properties. It is also used in traditional cuisine and medicinal systems all over the world.
This is thought to have come from turmeric’s rich curcumin content–the same thing that gives turmeric its deep yellow hue–which is thought to have the ability to regulate immunity by activating cells that fight off infections, while dulling the effect of compounds that promote inflammation. Like ginger, turmeric is often used in teas or cooked into curry recipes. Yum.
The same can be said about garlic. For centuries, garlic has been known for its health benefits. Garlic has been used to treat heart disease, hypertension, colds, and respiratory infections.
Allicin is the compound thought to be responsible for garlic’s beneficial effects on immunity. Allicin and the plant’s own antioxidant content fends off infections and promotes immune health.
Garlic extracts were found to have boosted immunity in overweight and obese adults based on a 2018 study published in Clinical Nutrition. In the double-blind and randomized study, the control group given garlic extracts had lower inflammation indicators than those who took a placebo.
There isn’t one single one-size-fits-all dietary approach that will guarantee you won’t get sick at all. But a well-rounded diet that includes the aforementioned foods can go a long way in keeping your overall health in check.
Just remember that too much of anything isn’t good for you. No matter how beneficial a food might seem, don’t overeat. It is possible to overdose on vitamins, which can be devastating. Ultimately, diet alone cannot supplant a well-rounded, holistic regimen that combines regular exercise, adequate sleep, managing anxiety and stress, and consuming a balanced diet.