Our immune system helps to fight viruses, bacteria, and fungi that can cause infections. A strong immune system is your best defense for preventing diseases and viruses like COVID-19. As we age, our ability to fight viruses often weakens, but a healthy diet can help.
If you are wondering about the best foods to boost your immune system, keep reading! We’ll suggest some great ones to add to your daily diet.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES
The best diet is the one that is based on whole, minimally processed foods. Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats, sugars, and sodium can weaken immunity. In addition to multiple nutrients and phytochemicals, plant foods also provide fiber, which feeds healthy bacteria in the gut.
Fruits and vegetables provide most of the body’s need for vitamins A and C, which are important for fighting germs. These are also generally rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and protect immune (and other) cell membranes from harmful oxidation. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of important vitamins and minerals, fiber, proteins, and healthy fats. And let’s not forget about Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant!
Also, healthy oils, such as olive, flaxseed, and canola, provide omega-3 fats, which help control inflammation and regulate the activity of immune cells. A spoonful or two of an oil-based dressing can also help your body absorb the antioxidant carotenoids (which the body converts to vitamin A) and other nutrients in green leafy vegetables and other greens.
WHAT ABOUT MEAT?
On the other hand, you need animal foods to provide the things that plants can’t provide enough of. A good example is vitamin B12, of which meat is an excellent source. Some vitamins and minerals are more accessible in animal foods than in vegetable foods. Zinc, for example, is more easily absorbed from seafood and meat than from beans and whole grains.
Eating meat and fish a few times a week will provide several key nutrients. Lean meat and poultry are rich in B vitamins (especially vitamin B12, where about 20% of older adults are deficient), iron, selenium, and zinc. Seafood is a good source of zinc, copper, and selenium. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are important sources of omega-3 fats, as well as B vitamins, selenium, and vitamin D which can protect against upper respiratory tract infections and excessive immune system responses.
Finally, fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, can provide hard-to-find vitamin D. Yogurt (unflavored is best to avoid added sugars) is also loaded with probiotic bacteria.
Maintaining a healthy diet is important for keeping the immune system in shape. Add these incredible foods to your daily menu and start experiencing positive changes sooner than you think.