You cannot control everything in your life but you have significant control over what you eat. Diet and nutrition play an enormous part in our health and maintaining a balanced diet go a long way to impact positively on both your mental and physical health. There are many advantages of proper nutrition ranging from mental clarity, better mood, more energy, improved memory and better cognitive performance, and a boost in immunity. It is the boost on immunity that we will be focusing on today; here are some Foods That Help Boost Your Immune System.
First off, what exactly is our immune system? Well in simple terms, it is our body’s line of defense. Daily, we are exposed to a plethora of microbes of all kinds that are potentially harmful to us. That’s where our immune system comes into play, a complex network of cells and proteins in the body, protecting us from these microbes and even some diseases. Foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites are recognized and immediate action is taken. We possess two types of immunity: Innate and Adaptive.
Innate immunity is the first line of defense in our bodies, consisting of protective barriers:
- Skin which prevents the majority of pathogens from entering our body
- Mucus traps pollution and pathogens before they can harm the lungs
- Stomach acid sterilizes the gut from the pathogens in our food
- Enzymes in our sweat and tears, creating anti-bacterial compounds
- Immune system cells that attack the pathogens that have entered the body
Adaptive or acquired immunity is as the name implies, a system that adapts to a pathogen. It is controlled by organs and cells in our body like the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. When a pathogen enters the body, these cells and organs create antibodies and lead to the multiplication of immune cells that are specific to that harmful substance and attack and destroy it. The immune system then remembers the pathogen so that if it enters again, these antibodies and cells are quicker to destroy it.
Now that you know what the immune system is and how it functions, we shall inform you of what to eat to boost it.
- Citrus Fruits – Most people turn straight to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold, and for good reason. Our bodies are incapable of producing vitamin c and must be taken through diet and supplementation. Vitamin C is believed to increase the creation of white blood cells and these cells are critical in fighting infections.
Not only does your body not produce vitamin c, but it also doesn’t store it either, so it is highly recommended to intake this vitamin daily. Citrus fruits like Grapefruit, Lemons, Sweet Lemons (Mausambi), Lime, and oranges are excellent sources of Vitamin C.
The Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men. If you decide on supplementation, it is recommended to not take more than 2 grams per day as. Although eating too much vitamin C is improbable to be harmful, megadoses of vitamin c supplementation can cause diarrhea.
- Red Capsicum – If you are under the assumption that Citrus fruits are the best source of Vitamin C among vegetables and fruits, you would be wrong. Red capsicum contains almost 3 times the amount of Vitamin C as oranges. They are also a great source of beta carotene, a compound our body converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps in skin and eye health as well.
- Broccoli – Yet another great source of vitamin c, broccoli is also jam-packed with minerals and other vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin E. It also contains fiber and other antioxidants. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a healthier vegetable. Far be it for us to tell you how to eat your greens, but research has suggested that the best way to eat it is to cook it as little as possible or better yet, not at all. Steaming is the healthiest way to consume broccoli.
- Ginger – Not so long ago on this site, we brought to you the health benefits of ginger, need we say more? Well, we will anyway. Ginger is also something we turn to when we are sick, and once again, for good reason. It is anti-inflammatory and also helps with nausea among other things.
- Garlic – Can’t say ginger without garlic, almost always used together in our cuisines. And not just us, garlic is an ingredient found in cuisine all around the world. Garlic’s main active compound is allicin, which contains sulfur, the cause of its distinctive smell and taste. But allicin is also unstable, converting into other sulfur-containing compounds. These compounds have displayed a tendency to boost the disease-fighting response of some white blood cells.
- Carrots – A great source of Vitamin C yet again, Carrots contain large amounts of beta carotene (implicated by its name) as well. Additionally, carrots also have Vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin E. Vitamin A is crucial in strengthening mucosal membranes of our innate immune system. Vitamin B-6 and folate aid in accurate immune response and growth of white blood cells. While vitamin E shields cell membranes all over the body, including immune cells. According to a study, vitamin E reverses some of the age-related decline in the ability of T cells to combat viruses. Carrots also contain minerals, specifically three minerals that are crucial to the immune system: Iron, zinc, and copper.
- Spinach – Vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, and last but not least, Iron. All nutrients we have mentioned before. All of them are immensely effective in boosting our immune system. All of them are found in spinach, some in abundance, and some in slightly lesser amounts.
- Poultry – They don’t give you chicken soup whenever you’re sick for no good reason. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, vitamin B-6, which as we have mentioned before, is an effective immunity booster, is found in poultry such as chicken and turkey. Poultry is also high in zinc. Stock or broth made from chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients that contribute to stomach immunity.