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Here’s How a Balanced Diet Can Boost the Immune System and Help Prevent Illness

Studies suggest that what we eat and how much we eat directly influences our immune system, along with other aspects of our health, such as mental health and physical health.

Aarushi Chadha
To function properly, the immune system requires balance and harmony
To function properly, the immune system requires balance and harmony

Several factors can depress or compromise our immune system from doing its job properly and this puts us at a risk of contracting diseases. For instance, lack of sleep and rest can compromise our immune system because sleep is a time for our body to restore itself. When we sleep our body releases a type of cytokine which helps fight infection.

Chronic mental stress leads to excessive production of the hormone cortisol, which suppresses inflammation and the action of white blood cells. Poor diet and excess weight can also compromise our immune system. A diet that is lacking in several nutrients, both macro and micro, can significantly impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies.

Can food boost our immune system?

To function properly, the immune system requires balance and harmony. That includes changing our diet and making several lifestyle changes. When it comes to our diet, the first step is creating a diet plan that includes a variety of foods with enough nutrients that are required for the health and function of immune cells.

Diets that are lower and limited in nutrients can negatively affect a healthy immune system. For instance, the Western diet is considered unhealthy because it is rich in refined sugar and red meat, low in fresh fruits and vegetables, and promotes disturbances in healthy intestinal microorganisms leading to inflammation of the gut and suppression of immunity.

Therefore, it is advised to follow certain dietary patterns, which include foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium, iron, and protein, that can better prepare the body for microbial attacks and excess inflammation. Studies show that a healthy microbiome in our gut plays a key role in promoting immunity function as the gut is a major site for the production of antimicrobial proteins. We all know that a key to a healthy gut microbiome is a diet rich in whole grains, soluble and insoluble fiber, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Foods that boost the immune system

A diet rich in a variety of nutritious foods rich in both micro and macronutrients is the key to a healthy immune system. Therefore, try to incorporate the following foods into your diet-

  • Yogurt- Yogurt is full of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that keep the gut free of disease-causing germs. We recommend that you choose plain yogurt over flavored yogurt as they are loaded with sugars. Some brands of yogurt are also fortified with vitamin D, which is a nutrient that helps regulate the immune system.

  • Fatty fish- Fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps reduce inflammation and even protects the lungs from colds and respiratory infections. Salmon is another great source of vitamin D.

  • Almonds- Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps keep a healthy immune system. Almonds are also packed with healthy fats and are high in fibre.

  • Ginger- Ginger is a common ingredient in most Asian kitchens not only because it is potent aromatic but also exhibits several medicinal properties, including anti-inflammation, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties.

  • Bell Peppers- Bell peppers or capsicum are loaded with vitamin C, a nutrient that not only keeps our skin healthy and also makes it stronger in order to act as a barrier between harmful organisms and our body. While many people consider citrus fruits to be a rich source of vitamin C, however, bell pepper, broccoli, mango, kiwi, and strawberry tend to pack a bigger punch.

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