Updated: Jul 19
By: Taylor Akers, Winthrop University Graduate Student
It’s no surprise that in the last few years we all want to strengthen our immune system and avoid getting sick. When you think of strengthening your immune system you may resort to taking supplements such as Emergen C packs or immune system pills but what most people don’t realize is that your diet can affect your immune system as well.
To start off, it is recommended to increase foods that are nutrient dense and include a balanced diet. Some foods rich in vitamins and good for the immune system include probiotic foods, prebiotic foods and plant based foods. Foods that have probiotics are fermented foods that include kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut. Some examples of prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, leeks and bananas. (Nutrition)
Once you have a diet high in vitamins and minerals then you can supplement with any missing vitamins or minerals. Some vitamins good for your immune system are Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Vitamin C and E are antioxidants that work in your body to destroy free radicals and support the immune system. Some foods high in these vitamins include mangoes, lemons, nuts and spinach.
Vitamin D is found to reduce the risk of viral infections as well as chronic diseases. You can get Vitamin D naturally from the sun but also from fortified cereals and supplements.
The mineral zinc helps to boost white blood cells, which fights invaders in your body. Food sources high in zinc are pumpkin seeds, beans and lentils. (Foods)
Although nutrition plays a role in our immune system, there are other factors that will give you that extra boost of immunity. The importance of getting adequate sleep is often overlooked when we are trying to balance too many tasks (Foods).
You should aim at getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Another factor that helps your immune system is participating in regular exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.
When it comes to your immune system don’t over complicate things. If it all sounds overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, pick one aspect of wellness and master it before you move on to incorporate other tips.
“Nutrition and Immunity.” The Nutrition Source, 27 Jan. 2021, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/#:~:text=Examples%20of%20nutrients%20that%20have,of%20plant%20and%20animal%20foods.
“Foods to Boost the Immune System.” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/foods-boost-immune-system?gclid=Cj0KCQjwzLCVBhD3ARIsAPKYTcQCzFo_X7rXsacPXiIHOX2H961LcPrKZD7R7q2gbTFbeBzaRJMshmkaAlgeEALw_wcB.