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Important Diet Habits To Implement For A Healthy Immune System

Important Diet Habits To Implement For A Healthy Immune System

[original article]

Here are some tips to stave off sickness and ensure your immune system is functioning most optimally!

 

And yes, we know, It’s easier said than done. But with the right information, you can start implementing a healthy immune-supporting diet. It’ll definitely be worth it. The immune system protects us against disease-causing bacteria. But if it’s not functioning adequately, we become susceptible to substances that invade our well-being.

Now, the correlation between immune function and healthy habits is not entirely understood. But… our habits and knowledge absolutely have an effect on our overall health. (1)

So, here are some awesome diet tips for a healthy immune system…

Note: The following information is not medical advice and you should not treat it as such. Seek medical treatment for any health concerns and do not try to self-diagnose. 

Water is your most important nutrient

Water is a crucial component of life and the most essential nutrient to the body. This is evident by the fact that there’s a good chance you’d die if you went 4 days without it. Oh, and we’re also made up of 60% or more of water. (2)

Water
Drink Water

It’s even more important than food which you can go weeks without (not a good idea but you get the point).

And research shows evidence of the link between dehydration and chronic disease (hypertension, diabetes, asthma, obesity and more).  Not mention, a lack of water reduces energy levels, brain function, and performance. (3, 4)

So, do yourself a favor and drink lots of water, especially in hot environments, if you’re more active, and if you suffer from chronic illness of any kind. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the amount of water you should drink every day but try to stay hydrated so that you don’t become excessively thirsty.

Many foods also contain water too such as fruits, veggies, coffee, green teas, and even some meats and dairy. So, a balanced, healthy diet will also ensure you stay hydrated while providing electrolytes. (5)

Greens are vital for life

There’s a reason why greens are classified as a food that we can safely consume in unlimited quantities. They’re loaded with health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, disease-preventing antioxidants and they contain no sugar.

Greens contain vitamins A, E, D, plus the minerals iron (blood cell health), folate, and more which supports healthy immune function.

Green Leaf Vegetable
Green Leaf Vegetable

More greens in your diet will lead to a healthy body, mind, and lifestyle overall. (6)

Excellent sources include kale, spinach, collard greens, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, etc. Not only do these greens contain plenty of vitamin C and other vitamins but they’re packed with carotenoids-antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when disease-causing free radicals weaken cells due to many factors such as stress, bad lifestyle habits, etc. (7)

As a result, cancers, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and more can occur. So diet plays a big role in our overall health through several different mechanisms. 

Review:Check our top 6 green superfood supplements if you want to add more healthy nutrients to your diet!

Have some fruit

Fruits such as elderberry, aronia, strawberries, acai, watermelon, apricot, mango, and papaya have a nice dose of disease-preventing antioxidants. Berries contain anthocyanins and phenolic compounds which are believed to possess the health benefits. (8)

Antioxidants Fruits
Antioxidants Fruits

But there need to be more studies on the exact mechanisms between the two compounds to come to a better conclusion on the effects. Although, all you need to know is that you should eat more healthy fruits for health benefits.  

Two-four servings per day should be sufficient for most people. And if you’re worried about the sugar content, the fruits listed above are generally OK for those with diabetes. (9)

In fact, research shows that since fruits contain fiber, it can help with blood sugar. (10, 11)

But you need to make sure you’re eating more low-glycemic fruits as not all contain the same amount of sugar and fiber.

Get your daily vitamin C

Vitamin C definitely contributes to a healthy immune system by supporting various cell functions, although it can only do so much. It also protects the skin against pathogens and oxidative stress from the environment. (12)

So it’s definitely a good idea to eat plenty of foods that contain a good amount of this vitamin. 

High vitamin C foods include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Spinach
Daily Vitamin C
Daily Vitamin C

According to research, vitamin C contributes to the production and function of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes. As a result, our bodies are better protected against infections and disease. (13)

The deficiency of this essential vitamin is also linked with pneumonia. (14)

And of course, vitamin C has plenty more benefits but it’s especially important for immune health.

Eat foods that contain healthy amounts of zinc

Zinc is a mineral that has an important role in immune health and a deficiency often results in impaired immune system function. It’s also required for cell metabolism, protein synthesis, enzyme activity, growth/development, and a few other processes. 

High Zinc Foods
High Zinc Foods

Foods high in zinc are typically shellfish such as oysters that contain more zinc than any other food. Although, poultry and red meat typically make up most of the intake in the American diet. But crab, lobster, beans, whole grains, seeds, yogurt and many more foods contain a decent amount too.

The recommended daily allowance for zinc for the average adult is 11mg for men, 8mg for women, 11mg for pregnancy, and 12mg for lactating. But the tolerable upper level for most adults is 40mg

Too much zinc, however, can result in very undesirable side effects including adverse effects of urinary physiology. So, make sure you’re not overdoing your intake. 

Take your herbs

Certain herbs have been shown to elicit improved health and reduce disease risk factors. 

Ginger is a well-known superfood that has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It’s one of the most proven herbs as well when it comes to improving/maintaining overall health. (15)

Astragalus, which is used as Chinese medicine, has shown intriguing results when it comes to immune health in scientific studies. (16)

Superfood Herbs
Superfood Herbs

Angelica root is another Chinese herb that is used for blood circulation and immune system modulation. (17)

Honey, a natural sweetener also used for medicinal purposes, has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It’s used in the treatment of many things such as gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous system issues. Other uses are wound, ulcer healing and even cancer to name a few. (18)

Honey also contains lots of flavonoids and polyphenols which act as antioxidants and there’s good evidence for its use in many cases.

Curcumin, a component of turmeric, is a popular herb with anti-inflammatory properties. Scientific literature explains that in the last two decades, curcumin has been shown to be a potent immunomodulatory agent. (19)

Eat gut-healthy foods and consider supplementation

Probiotics are live microorganisms found in the gut and body. They’re found in fermented foods and many people supplement to get their daily dose of live bacteria. These live bacteria function to maintain a healthy gut flora (community of microorganisms).

There are many different types, some good and some not. The two most common forms which are commonly used are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The good kind of gut flora is believed to play a role in several different processes.

Yogurt For Probiotics
Yogurt For Probiotics

These include the processing of nutrients, maintaining your gut wall to keep away bad germs, and it may also play a role in strengthening your immune system.

But it’s important to note that there isn’t sufficient evidence which suggests probiotics can improve certain conditions. 

But there is some research that shows promise for minor gut-related issues such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, colitis and more.

Although, there is the possibility of side effects especially in those with compromised immune health and illness. A few possible side effects include infection and the production of undesirable substances from the probiotics.

So, we recommend only healthy individuals consider probiotic supplementation. But most people can generally consume probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, miso, etc. 

Review:Take a look at these 10 effective probiotic supplements for men and women in 2020

Cook with garlic

Garlic is one of the best foods to cook with due to its amazing flavor and mouth-watering aroma. But this plant bulb may have some health properties too. Although, the evidence isn’t entirely sufficient due to mostly low-quality studies. (20, 21)

Cook Food With Garlic
Cook Food With Garlic

Research suggests that it may have a small effect on blood pressure. Some studies have also shown the food garlic to potentially reduce the risk of developing stomach and colon cancer. 

As far as immune function, there are a few pieces of scientific literature that support some type of effect on the immune system. (22, 23)

One study of 146 volunteers found that garlic can prevent the common cold while also reducing the duration of symptoms compared to a placebo group. There are a few other reviews that support its use for the common cold. But again, the studies overall are not of high-quality or sufficient. (24)

Add mushrooms in your diet

That’s right, mushrooms can boost your immune system and they’ve been used in Eastern medicine for many purposes for quite some time.

Reishi mushroom has shown to have effects on the immune system, while also promoting weight loss and acting as a powerful calming agent. Plus, it may also increase white blood cells. (25)

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

Chaga mushroom contains plenty of zinc in addition to more antioxidants than other mushrooms on a gram for gram basis. 

Turkey tail, shiitake, and Lion’s Mane are all also very good for the immune system as well. And it’s important to note that mushrooms contain the mineral selenium which has a favorable effect on the immune system. (26)

Other factors that affect the immune system

While this article is focused on the diet for improving the immune system, it’s not all you should consider. 

Other crucial factors for immune health include

  • Stress levels (relationships, jobs, etc)
  • Sleep habits
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Disease/general health
  • Medications
  • Lack of sun exposure (vitamin D plays a role in immune health)

Once again, your lifestyle habits will determine your overall health. Some things may be out of your control. But, for the most part, we can do our due diligence to ensure we’re making the right choices. Then, we have to take action and make it a daily habit.

Daily Exercise
Daily Exercise

You can get to bed earlier, meditate, exercise, change your personal situation, cut out bad habits, and commit yourself to being a healthier person overall. Because living in stress is a recipe for disease. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the function of the immune system?

The immune system protects the body against infections and disease. It’s a crucial component of overall health in general.

How can I tell if I have a weak immune system?

Sings you may have a weak immune system…

  • Always sick
  • Cold hands
  • Digestion issues
  • Dry eyes
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Infections
  • Hair loss
  • Numb hands and feet
  • Unexplainable weight fluctuations

What causes a weak immune system?

There are many factors when it comes to healthy immune system function which include…

  • Stress levels (relationships, jobs, etc)
  • Bad sleep habits
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Disease/general health
  • Medications
  • Lack of sun exposure (vitamin D plays a role in immune health)

We can improve most of these factors by making healthier lifestyle choices.

What are the best foods for immune system health?

There are several foods that will promote good overall health and likely improved immune health which include…

  • Fruits high in vitamin C
  • Greens
  • Certain herbs
  • Mushrooms
  • Fermented foods/yogurts
  • Berries
  • Oysters and other shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Healthy grains

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water as well which is crucial for healthy immune function!

Wrapping Up

Immune health is very important for your overall well-being. So don’t take your health lightly and implement the necessary dietary habits a part of your daily life if you haven’t already. 

Of course, everyone is different which means so are nutritional choices. But we know that in general, many of the food groups we mentioned here are non-negotiable. So, do your best and remember that your immune system will function optimally when you take care of your body and mind. 

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