A healthy diet is important for supporting a high-functioning immune system. Nutrient-rich foods give your body the tools they need to fight infections and reduce the risk of chronic illness. While many fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins are good options to consider, certain choices have more immune-boosting benefits than others. Here are some foods you can incorporate into your diet to help keep illness at bay.
Broccoli has long been hailed for its health benefits, so it’s no surprise that the cruciferous veggie can also support immunity. It’s rich in immune-boosting micronutrients vitamin C and beta-carotene, but its sulfur compounds could also help to defend against free radicals.
In addition to providing protein, eggs are micronutrient powerhouses. They contain vitamins E and D, as well as zinc and selenium, to support immune regulation. Eggs from chickens fed a vegetarian diet may be even higher in beneficial nutrients, such as omega-3s.
Another contender from the dairy category, yogurt has probiotics which support healthy gut flora. Research indicates the health of the gastrointestinal tract is directly tied to immunity. Eating probiotic-rich foods could therefore help to support a healthy microbiome, and thus, a strong immune system.
The idea that chicken soup could help to banish illness isn’t just an old wives’ tale. While there’s still debate as to whether or not it delivers any immune protection, it turns out the comfort food is actually rich with anti-inflammatory agents. Garlic, protein, and onions offer a blend of healthy nutrients.
Certain cold-water fish, including salmon and tuna, are also inflammation fighters. They contain omega-3s, which banish inflammatory agents, thus allowing the immune system to direct its efforts on the harmful pathogens which cause illness.
While you may already know beef is a great source of protein, the meat also has other noteworthy benefits for promoting immune health. It’s got more than half of your daily recommended intake for key nutrients like selenium, zinc, and vitamin B6. Many people struggle to take in enough of these vitamins, and even minor deficiencies could compromise the immune system’s ability to some degree.
Vitamin C is a known immunity booster, which is why citrus fruits are so commonly recommended to fight off colds. Yet, bell peppers are even better sources. A medium red bell pepper has twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange, and it also comes with beta-carotene and vitamin E, which are beneficial antioxidants.
A healthy diet is no substitute for practices like immunizations and getting ample sleep, but it can certainly round out a strong defense against illness. Of course, it can be challenging to get all the key nutrients your body needs every day. If you think you might have a nutritional gap in your diet, talk to a specialist about supplements to help boost your body’s immune system.