THE ROLE OF DIET IN A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Food is the most powerful tool we can use to improve the health and function of our immune system. Our immune system is built with and fueled by the nutrients we taken in, which is why it's so IMPORTANT to eat foods packed with nutrition!
Proper nutrition, in the form of nutrient-dense foods, supports a healthy gut microbiome (where most of our immune cells reside), helps regulate inflammation, and enhances immune cell function. In contrast, a diet comprised mostly of processed foods and foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar lacks essential nutrients needed for a healthy immune system.
A nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet is comprised of a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, whole grains), and healthy fats.
Here are some key immune-boosting nutrients we can get through our foods to boost the health and function of our immune system.
VITAMIN C -
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays a large part in increasing the white blood cells that produce antibodies and help stop infections. Eating fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of color is the best way to increase your vitamin C intake! Some foods contain extraordinary amounts of usable vitamin C!
Foods abdundant in vitamin C:
kiwifruit, guava, bell peppers (especially red bell peppers), strawberries, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, snow peas, kale, Brussels sprouts, papaya, potatoes, lemons, limes
VITAMIN D -
Vitamin D plays a big role in enhancing the function of the immune system, especially how individual immune cells respond to pathogens (i.e. invaders). Vitamin D deficiency leads to impaired maturation of white blood cells, thereby increasing the susceptibility to infection and disease. We can take in more vitamin D through foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, cod liver oil, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products. Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin. It is important to consume healthy fats so the body will be able to absorb it, use it and store it for later use.
VITAMIN E -
Vitamin E strengthens the function of our immune cells and protects them from oxidative damage. Vitamin E has been shown to increase the amount of white blood cells that finds and destroys harmful invaders! It is also a fat-soluble vitamin and can be found naturally in foods such as nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds), sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, pumpkin, red bell peppers, mango, asparagus, avocadoes, as well as chili powder, curry powder, and cayenne.
Zinc is important in maintaining the integrity of our skin, which is part of the immune system’s first line of defense. Zinc is also crucial for the development of specific immune cells that fight infection. A zinc deficiency often results in the body producing fewer infection-fighting cells. Good sources of zinc include meat, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds), shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster), and whole grains.