Diet-Friendly? In the cold and flu season, keeping your immune system healthy is key to staying well. Eating a balanced diet that supports your immune system is key. If you have a weakened immune system due to illness or due to immunosuppressive medication, then it’s even more important to pay attention to what you’re eating.
A wholesome diet can boost your immune system, but some foods may weaken your immune response and make you more susceptible to illness. A weakened immune system can be the result of stress, fatigue, or eating foods that are known to suppress the immune response, such as sugar-heavy sodas, processed meats, simple carbohydrates like white bread or pasta, and artificial sweeteners like saccharin and aspartame.
What You Should Be Eating
A healthy immune system depends on a well-functioning gut, so start with some high-fiber foods that promote healthy digestion. These include whole grains (brown rice, pasta made from whole wheat, whole wheat pita), legumes, green peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios). Protein-rich foods can help boost the immune system and make you feel more energized. Good protein sources include fish, beans, eggs, poultry, nuts and seeds, soy, and dairy.
Animal proteins are also good sources of zinc, which aids the immune system by boosting white blood cell production. Include foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene in your diet. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support your immune system. There are lots of good sources of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin E is an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy immune system. Foods that are rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, broccoli, spinach, and avocados. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which supports the immune system. Beta-carotene can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, cantaloupe, apricots, and mangoes.
Vitamin C Rich Foods
Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, papayas, and broccoli. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, so make sure to eat your vitamin C-rich foods, raw or steamed. You can also take vitamin C supplements if you’re not getting enough from your diet. Be sure to speak to your doctor before taking vitamin C supplements if you have a history of ulcers or kidney stones. Vitamin C can also be found in many common over-the-counter cold and flu medications. While these medications may help reduce your symptoms, they do not boost your immune system.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are great sources of vitamin C, iron, calcium, and other vitamins that boost the immune system. Leafy greens are also high in fiber and low in calories, making them great additions to any diet. When cooking your greens, try steaming them or sautéing them in a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Some studies also suggest that raw greens can be helpful in boosting the immune system. In order to get the most out of your greens, be sure to eat them fresh, not cooked.
Fresh greens have higher concentrations of vitamin C than cooked greens. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, so steaming or sautéing your greens will still provide you with great benefits, but won’t lose as much of the vitamin C as a stir-fry or serving them cooked from the grocery store.
Omega 3 Fats
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are necessary for many bodily functions, including healthy brain function, heart health, and a strong immune system. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, or chia seeds, can improve your immune system and overall health.
When consumed as part of a healthy diet, omega-3 fatty acids are generally safe and well-tolerated by most people, even if they have certain health conditions. Be sure to speak to your doctor if you have specific health conditions or take medications before adding foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
Probiotic foods are foods that contain live bacteria and are good for digestion. Yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, are examples of probiotic foods. Eating probiotic foods daily can help to boost your immune system. Probiotics can also help reduce your risk of contracting and spreading cold and flu viruses.
If you’re taking immunosuppressive medication, eating probiotic foods can help restore your gut bacteria that may have been affected by the medication and reduce the risk of infection. Some people may experience mild side effects, such as bloating or gas, when first adding probiotic foods to their diet. These should go away in a few weeks.
Other Immune-Boosting Foods
Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and beans are all rich in fiber and are good sources of B vitamins. B vitamins are often found in enriched grains, such as white bread, and are essential for a healthy metabolism. Be sure to read the nutrition labels on enriched foods and also try to choose whole grains, which are higher in nutrients than enriched grains.
Avocados and other fatty fruits contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for your heart and can help to lower your cholesterol. Vegetables are rich in antioxidants and can help support the immune system. Make sure to consume a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to get the most nutrients from your diet.
Conclusion of Diet-Friendly Meals to Support Your Immune System
There are so many ways to boost your immune system and stay healthy this winter. Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and make time for social activities with friends and family. Stay away from crowds when you’re sick, and wash your hands often to avoid spreading germs.
There are so many great immune-boosting foods out there, so there’s no reason to let the flu catch you by surprise. With a few changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can stay well all winter long. And with all that free time on your hands, you can catch up on your reading list, binge-watch your favorite show, or take care of that neglected to-do list. Now you have no excuse for not being well.