10 Foods that Boost the Immune System
Published 30 Dec 2020 • By Gilda Teissier
Your immune system is in charge of defending your body against microorganisms that can get you sick. Nonetheless, it sometimes fails to protect us. Luckily there are some ways in which we can give our immune system a little help either to avoid getting sick or to be able to get better faster.
So, what is the immune system? How does it protect us against microorganisms? How can we help it through the things we eat?
We tell you everything in our article!
Immune System Facts
The immune system is meant to protect us against diseases through a network of biological processes. Its main task is to detect and respond to pathogens, viruses, parasites, bacteria, cancer cells, etc. As it is a complex compound that involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues, it needs to be in harmony and balance in order to work well.
Many studies throughout the years have been conducted to prove links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function, and even though in most of them there is still no hard scientific evidence to back up the claims, that doesn’t mean that healthy living strategies can’t help you give your immune system the upper hand by keeping your whole body in balance. What is a fact is that the body is generating immune cells all the time and that some foods can help generate more of some of those cells, or can help to make them faster. At the same time, evidence exists showing that various micronutrient deficiencies, for example zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E alter immune responses.
Age is another factor that needs to be considered for our immune system's ability to respond. It has been proven that the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases than younger people and to die from them. According to Harvard Health Publishing: respiratory infections, influenza, the COVID-19 virus and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide. The precise reasons are unknown, but some scientists have observed that there may be a correlation between a decrease in T cell production and higher risks of infections.
Another element that affects the elderly’s immune system is nutrition. Micronutrient malnutrition is a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals obtained from a rich and balanced diet. As older people tend to eat less or have a less varied diet, it is not uncommon for them to have micronutrient malnutrition.
Cold weather is usually considered in the mix of elements that can “weaken” our immune system. However, this is a myth. The reason why people in cold weather climates tend to catch more colds is because they spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people that pass on their germs. Also, in cold and less humid weather the influenza virus stays airborne longer.
Exercise, as well as a healthy diet, if done regularly, can be your ally for healthy living, and therefore a healthy immune system. As physical activity contributes to good health and promotes circulation, it has been proven to help cells and immune system substances to move freely through the body and do a more efficient job.
10 foods that boost your immune system and how:
Red bell peppers are the kings of vitamin C. They contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits and also rich in beta carotene. White blood cells are key to fighting infections and vitamin C is thought to increase the production of these cells.
Blueberries, as many know, are rich in antioxidants, essentially flavonoids. Thanks to a recent study, flavonoids are now known to help prevent upper respiratory tract infections.
Spinach is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, antioxidants, and beta carotene. These help the immune system to increase its ability to fight infections. Specifically flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, have shown through research that they can prevent the cold in healthy people.
Broccoli, or the healthiest vegetable you can eat. It is a bomb of vitamins and minerals containing vitamin A, C and E as well as fibre and antioxidants.
Ginger is a root that not only has properties that help your immune system not to get sick, but it also helps you push through a cold if you couldn’t avoid it. One of its properties is that it helps reduce inflammation. It is also packed with antioxidants and research has shown that it may also help to decrease chronic pain.
Garlic is considered one of the most common home remedies. It is known to help fight infections and slow down the hardening of arteries. It has sulphur-containing compounds, such as allicin in great quantities, which seem to be the main reason for its immune boosting properties.
Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C and are so easy to consume. They not only help you build your immune system, but they also help in recovering faster from a cold. It is important to know that the body doesn’t store vitamin C, so it is recommended to consume a daily dose.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, manganese and magnesium, all of which are key to a healthy immune system.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. According to a few studies which require further research, turmeric has shown promising immune booster and antiviral properties.
Green tea is rich in two excellent antioxidants: flavonoids and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Some studies have shown that EGCG increases immune functions. At the same time, this tea is a source of L-theanine, an amino acid that helps in the production of compounds in your T cells that help fight germs.
Healthy foods provide many substances including vitamins and minerals to keep us strong and healthy. As dietician Maxine Smith says, “It’s like training for a battle and preparing your body ahead of time so it can throw a good punch when attacked by viruses, bacteria and toxins.”
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- How to Boost your Immune System. Harvard Health
- Immunomodulators Inspired by Nature: A Review on Curcumin and Echinacea. MDPI
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- The effect of ginger supplementation on lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Phytomedicine
- Vitamin C: Fact sheet for consumers. NIH
- Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. US National Library of Medicine
- Antioxidant properties of green broccoli and purple-sprouting broccoli under different cooking conditions. Oxford Academic
- Nutritional value of Spinacia oleraecea spinach: An overview. International Journal of Life Sciences and Review
- Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. UN National Library of Medicine
- Regulation Of Innate Immune Recognition Of Viral Infection By Epigallocatechin Gallate. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology