Your body’s immune system is its first and best defence from infection and invasion by foreign substances. Whether it’s fighting off the common cold, rushing to the scene of a cut or a scrape to protect against possible infection, or even just overreacting in an allergic reaction to tree pollen, your immune system is constantly on the watch.
A strong immune system is always better than a weak one. There are plenty of ways to keep your own immune system firing on all cylinders, and one of the most effective of these methods is to eat a well-balanced diet of immune-boosting foods. Here’s what you need to know about strengthening your immune system, both through diet and in other ways as well.
How the Immune System Works in a Nutshell
Our immune system can be split into two different categories. The innate immune system is our first line of defence, fighting harmful germs and substances that enter our body. The immune system does this by sending white blood cells after these germs. Meanwhile, the second category of our immune system is adaptive – it keeps a record of germs that the body has come into contact with in the past and then creates specific antibodies to fight these same germs if they invade the body again in the future. Both categories of your immune system need to be functional and strong to protect your health.
What Weakens Your Immune System
There are dozens of reasons why your immune system might not be as strong as it should be. Some of the most common include not getting enough sleep, which prevents your immune system from synthesizing the antibodies it needs to protect your body from infection. Anxiety also weakens your immune system, as the stress hormones released into your bloodstream can weaken your immune response.
Other reasons why your immune system might not be as strong as it should include dietary deficiencies. Not enough vitamin D, for example, can limit your body’s ability to synthesize blood cells – and that includes the white blood cells your body needs to power your immune system. Excessive drinking and smoking, not enough exercise, and a diet too high in fatty foods have all been linked to having a weaker immune system, so there’s a number of factors you need to look out for.
Foods to Strengthen the Immune System
Outside of exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and avoiding bad habits like smoking and drinking, the best way to keep your immune system strong is to eat a well-balanced diet of the right nutrient-rich foods. Foods that are low in fat, offer high amounts of lean protein, and are rich in essential vitamins are all perfect. Here are just some of the best choices out there for good immune health:
Foods rich in Vitamin A, which include sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach, are excellent for your respiratory system and your intestines because they’re high in beta-carotene. Unfortunately, the idea that the beta-carotene carrots help your eyesight is more of an old wives’ tale than anything else!
The Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, and red bell peppers are great in helping to stimulate your immune system’s ability to create antibodies. Vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant, and that helps support your overall health in dozens of other ways as well.
Vitamin E, which is another strong antioxidant, can be found in healthy cooking oils like extra virgin olive oil. You can also find it in avocados as well as nuts and seeds.
Your body needs Zinc to create a number of different enzymes – and not having these enzymes in sufficient quantity has been linked to poor immune system performance. You can get zinc in lean meats, seafood, poultry, and nuts, seeds, and beans.
Finally, your body needs the right amount of lean protein to synthesize amino acids that play a role in the creation of T-cells, a specific type of white blood cell your immune system uses. The best way to get lean protein is to turn to the same place you get your zinc: beans, nuts, seeds, and meat, seafood, and poultry. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein as well!