How a healthy diet can boost your immune system And add another protective layer against COVID
In our previous blog, we discussed how COVID enters our body, how it works and why it’s important to boost our immune systems.
Today, we’ve going to look at how.
Doctors tell us this over and over: Live a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, sleep.
Studies have shown that a lack of these things can lead to major diseases including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
But why would these also help our immune system?
Immune Boosting Diets
White bloods cells are essential to our immune response. They produce the antibodies that fight viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. They’re also involved in producing antihistamines and reducing inflammation, regulating T-cell function. Studies have shown that vegetarians have a higher white blood cell count than meat-eaters.
Fruits and Vegetables
Why? A vegetarian diet is high in fruit and vegetables, and fruit and vegetables are very nutrient dense and high in vitamins, which supports White Blood Cell production and function.
A low-fat diet may also be beneficial. High fats or oils are thought to impair blood cell function, as well as throw off the balance of natural bacteria in the gut.
The Vital Vitamins for an Immuno-Boosting Diet
These vitamins play pivotal roles in boosting our immunity:
Vitamin C: The power vitamin your Mom always wants to dose you up on when you’re sick – and for good reason! Vitamin C is an antioxidant which protects our bodies from free radical damage. It’s essential to produce collagen – which our bodies use to maintain skin and tissue structure. It also boosts white cell function. It might not be able to prevent illness, but studies have shown that when people take it for colds, they experience less severe symptoms and recover faster.
Food Sources: Citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, kale, spinach and tomatoes.
Vitamin B-6: plays a vital role in the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
Sources: poultry, shellfish.
Vitamin D is believed to reduce your body’s production of proinflammatory compounds thus reducing the risk of severe infections, including respiratory infections. Your body can make its own Vitamin D. The secret? Add sunshine. 13-15 minutes, three times a week is your body’s recommended dose to make its own Vitamin D.
Food sources: Salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, yogurt, fortified cereals, plant-based milks.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble powerful antioxidant. It plays a key role in regulating and supporting immune system function.
Food sources: nuts, seeds, avocado, and spinach.
Beta-carotene: Increases disease-fighting cells in the body and supports anti-inflammatory responses, reducing inflammation. Beta-carotene converts into Vitamin A, which is fat-soluble. So eating it with healthy fats (nuts, avocado, etc.) will increase its absorption.
Natural food sources: Carrots, spinach, kale, apricots, sweet potato, squash, and cantaloupe.
ZINC – not really a vitamin, technically a mineral but still an essential component to an immune boosting diet. Zinc can help boost white blood cell production and function. It’s not naturally stored in the body.
Food sources: Shellfish, Nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, beans, and legumes.
Other Immune Boosting Foods
Green Tea A natural energy booster that’s also packed with antioxidants and amino acids. Its amino acids help improve T-cell function, which reduces inflammation and helps fight infection.
Garlic Not just for vampire warding, garlic boosts the production of T-cells and reduces the amount of stress hormone (cortisol) your body produces. Cortisol is the hormone involved in our body’s “fight or flight” response. When it’s present in our system, it suppresses all but essential functions – including digestion and immune responses. This is why its long-term presence in our bodies (caused by stress) can have so much impact on our overall health and make us more vulnerable to viruses.
Ginger: Reduces inflammation. It’s also great for nausea – making it a popular choice for those with morning sickness.
Onion: Onions are packed with selenium, sulfur compounds, zinc, and vitamin C – a immune-boosting super combo. They are also high in antioxidants and have histamine regulating effects, giving them anti-inflammatory, virus fighting powers.
Poultry: There’s a reason that chicken soup is the default meal when you’re sick. Not only is poultry rich in vitamin B-6 but it’s high in protein, which your cells use to rebuild cellular membranes and keep out invaders.
Chicken stock contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients which promotes gut healing, as well as immunity.
The truth is there is no magic formula to make our immune systems bulletproof.
If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods, you’ll likely be getting enough of these. Supplements are also an option – though be careful not to take more than the recommended dose as some vitamins are stored in the body longer than others and can actually be detrimental in too higher doses.
A diet rich in unprocessed foods will also ensure your consuming nutrient dense foods that have a high bioavailability, meaning your body can easily absorb them and make the best possible use of them.
Love Your Gut