Nutrition and the Immune System
As we enter cold and flu season, information abounds regarding "superfoods" or foods that can help "fend off illness" or act as "immunity bombs" (a trend that I've seen on social media lately and maybe you have too). It's important to remember that no specific food can prevent illness; an adequate and varied diet plays an important role in a healthy immune function overall, while certain nutrients can boost your body's ability to fight off infections or illness. Here are some of those foods/nutrients known to support immunity:
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are high in vitamin C, which plays a vital role in healthy immune function to help fight infection. See more on vitamin C and other food sources in a previous blog post such as bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach), and potatoes.
Probiotic rich foods are beneficial for gut health; a healthy gut contributes to immunity. Foods that can be considered for probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Garlic has been shown to boost immunity. This is due to the plant compound in it known as Allium, which is linked to supporting the response of white blood cells that fight the flu or cold viruses. Other options that are part of the allium family include: onion, leeks, chives, scallions.
Spices such as ginger and turmeric are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help foster a strong immune system.
Certain types of shellfish such as crab, clams or lobster are good sources of zinc, which are beneficial to immune function.
Certain types of poultry such as chicken or turkey are high in vitamin B6, which help support a healthy immune system due to their role in the production of red blood cells.
Food sources of vitamin E, including almonds or sunflower seeds, are immune system supporters. Vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning having a source of fat consumed with it helps absorption in the body, such as nuts or seeds!
Green tea contains flavonoids, which are thought to have antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties.
Hydration - water and other hydrating beverages is important for overall health, including supporting the immune system.
It's important to note that overall lifestyle factors such as movement, sufficient sleep (hello recent daylight savings time possibly throwing us off!), as well as stress management also plays a significant role in supporting a healthy immune system. Additionally, to reiterate that no one food alone can help prevent cold or infection and a diet that encourages adequate and consistent nutrition is key. As always, if you have specific health concerns or conditions, it's always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.