What we feed our bodies affects its ability to resist and fight-off disease. Inadequate nutrition can compromise our body’s defense and its response to foreign invaders, while conscious dieting can optimize its ability to resist disease. It’s therefore important we be mindful of our diet to ensure that our bodies have the tools needed to heal and recover.
Diet can be broken up into several basic categories. The following food groups and types are excellent sources of nutrients that directly support the immune system.
Water. As simple as it sounds, water is an essential part of our well-being. Sticking to water as opposed to diuretic beverages like alcohol, coffee, and sugary drinks is ideal. Hydration is especially important during winter and early spring, as colder and drier weather can leave the respiratory lining susceptible to infection(1).
Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables offer countless benefits to our body. These are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that our body needs to function and keep our organs healthy. They are nutrient dense, meaning that they offer more nutrients per calorie than most other foods.
Fiber from fruits and vegetables promotes a healthy digestive tract, where they act as prebiotics. This is extremely important! Our gut plays a key role in the absorption of nutrients and in supporting the immune system. A healthy gut allows the body to reap the full benefits of the nutrients consumed.
Berries. Berries are packed with antioxidants that protect our body from all sorts of wear and tear. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, reactive molecules that would otherwise react with important micro-biological structures and render them useless.
Berries are also abundant in phytochemicals (“plant-” chemicals), which are becoming more and more recognized as important to our health. Examples of phytochemicals includes flavonoids, carotenoids, anthocyanins, sulfides, thiols, and many many more. Phytochemicals are the most effective when consumed in their natural form, not as a supplement.
Nuts and Seeds. Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy (poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated) fats. Examples include plant-based oils (liquid at room temperature), omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to immune support and function, eliciting a supporting effect on phagocytic cells like neutrophils and macrophages (3). Nuts and seeds are also packing with energy and are phytochemicals, making them a no-brainer when it comes to immune support.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a miracle worker when it comes to immunity. Adequate levels of vitamin D ensure that we have strong bones and a strong immune system. Supplementing with vitamin D has been found to lower the likelihood of upper respiratory tract infections as well as shorten the illness. Vitamin D also has antioxidant properties that protect with oxidative damage and has a stabilizing effect on mood.
What’s Best for Your Body
From dietary restrictions to food intolerances, we are all different and no two bodies require the exact same diet to function optimally. Consulting with a registered dietitian is the quickest, most accurate way to nail down exactly what foods your body needs to thrive and achieve your nutrition goals. Optimize your health and connect with a nutritionist today.
“Common Cold.” Common Cold | Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/common-cold.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Fill up on Phytochemicals.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fill-up-on-phytochemicals.
Gutiérrez, Saray, et al. “Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, MDPI, 11 Oct. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834330/.
Martineau, Adrian R, et al. “Vitamin D Supplementation to Prevent Acute Respiratory Tract Infections: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Individual Participant Data.” The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 15 Feb. 2017, www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583.