Don’t let cold and flu season get the best of you.
A strong immune system is the foundation of good health, warding off infections and allowing you to bounce back more quickly if you do get sick. Although there is no one food or supplement that has been scientifically proven to improve immunity, there are certain foods and health practices that can give you a natural boost. A diet rich in whole foods that provides you with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and dietary fiber will keep immunity buzzing, while too much saturated fat, simple sugars, and processed foods can weaken your body’s natural defenses. Read on to find out how to keep your immune system fully charged.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects on a variety of inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and even allergies. These health-promoting fatty acids—specifically EPA and DHA—are found in cold-water fish including salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna. Other great sources include walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Adequate Intake of Calories
Intake of adequate calories and micronutrients is vital for optimal immune function. A deficiency in total calories or protein can weaken the body’s ability to fight infection by reducing the immune system’s ability to respond to harmful bacteria.
Complex carbohydrate fiber, such as that found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, appear to reduce inflammation in both human and animal studies. These foods are also rich in essential nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals. The USDA recommends that at least half the grains we consume be whole grains to meet our daily fiber goals.
Lack of sleep can disrupt hormones and weaken our body’s defense system to fight infection. Experts recommend adults sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night for optimal immunity.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants may strengthen your immune system, lower your risk of heart disease, and protect against certain types of cancer. The American Heart Association recommends filling up on antioxidant-rich foods (including fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds) as opposed to supplements, to reap the most benefits. Experts suggest we eat between 5- 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, so try to include at least two servings at each meal.
Many experts have linked a healthy microbiome to improved immunity. Probiotics are the bacterial powerhouses that help change or repopulate gut bacteria to optimize the health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The trillions of bacteria that live in our GI tract are what make up our intestinal flora. A healthy flora can play a role in the maturing of immune cells and block the passage of bad bacteria into the blood. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut.