10 Foods That Boost Your Immune System
As we enter into day 452 of the pandemic, immunity is still on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Other than wearing your PPE and washing your hands before, during, and after every interaction with anyone or anything, what can you do to help support your own immunity? And are there foods that boost your immune system?
Let’s take a step back and figure out a little more about your immune system. In case you didn’t know, your immune system is made up of your tonsils and adenoids, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, thymus, spleen, appendix, Peyer’s patches, and bone marrow.
And here’s news to use: You can find up to 80% of your immune system in your digestive tract (as gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT). Essentially, the number one priority of your immune system is DEFENSE. In other words, the immune system is a complex and dynamic defense system that’s responsible for keeping you well. And, it’s always working to protect your body from challenges and “foreign invaders,” which, believe it or not, enter your body all the time.
It’s hard to believe that every minute of every day, there is a battle raging inside of your body between your immunity defense—the GOOD GUYS—and the BAD GUYS, including viruses, allergens, toxic substances, and other foreign invaders (like pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and fungi).
In brief, the stronger and more supported your immune system, the better able you are to remain healthy and happy.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 foods that boost your immune system:
Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Immune System
A three-ounce portion of beef—preferably a cut that’s very lean—is a tasty way to get your zinc. Being deficient in zinc can increase your risk of infection. Zinc helps develop white blood cells, the cells we really need to fight off foreign bacteria and viruses.
2. Seafood (e.g. sardines, oysters, scallops and shrimp)
Fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) contains ample amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which may enhance immune function. Omega-3s may help the body in its fight against inflammation and could increase your body’s ability to ward off illnesses.
3. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens provide calcium, fiber, folate, iron, and vitamins C and K. All of these nutrients play a critical role in supporting the immune system by encouraging immune cells in the gut to function properly.
Mushrooms are a type of fungi that may support immunity, boost health, and even promote health span. In Asian holistic medicine, mushrooms have been a star of the show for centuries. More recently, researchers are finding the ancient health practitioners were onto something. Mushrooms appear to be powerful when it comes to fighting disease and supporting healthy cells.
5. Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and Citrus Fruits
The health of your immune system relies on many factors. Yet vitamin C is clearly one of the most important. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for men is 90 milligrams (mg) per day. For women, it’s 75 mg. Vitamin C is known to help give your immune system a boost. It encourages the immune system to produce white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infections.
Vitamin C can be found in many foods. Some of the highest concentrations, however, are found in fruits (particularly citrus) as well as bell peppers, green vegetables like kale, and tomatoes. Contrary to popular belief, however, the vitamin C in foods isn’t likely to reduce the risk of colds.
6. Broccoli and Cruciferous Veggies
Cruciferous veggies are included on this list due to a nutrient called sulforaphane. Research has found that diets high in broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables may activate certain antioxidant genes and enzymes in immune cells, supporting the body’s ability to fight free radicals and eliminate toxins.
7. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide iron, vitamin B, and zinc, which all support the immune system. Zinc has been associated with the production of white blood cells, which are key to an effective immune system. Nuts and seeds are also rich in several health-promoting vitamins and minerals.
8. Fermented Foods
The bacteria that reside in the gut have a significant impact on your immune system. Because of the high amount of probiotics, fermented foods may support your immune system to potentially reduce the risk of infections.
Oats are the top source of the fiber known as “beta-glucan,” which may help boost infection-fighting blood cells. Oats also provide the minerals selenium and zinc, which may help ward off illness.
10. Allium Vegetables (e.g., leeks, onions and garlic)
Finally, the allium vegetables—like garlic, onions, and leeks—also support a healthy immune system. Garlic’s health-enhancing properties have been proclaimed for centuries. Recent studies have validated the centuries-old claims, showing that allicin, a compound found in garlic and onions, may have strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.