The immune system is a frequent topic during cold and flu season. We all want it to operate at its best. Paying attention to our nutrition can boost our immune system’s performance in fighting off illness.
Good nutrition is critical to our immune systems. Our immune systems do more than fight off the common cold. Having a balanced and functioning immune system helps prevent other health problems like allergies, arthritis, and abnormal cell formation that can lead to cancer. Protein, essential fatty acids, and specific vitamins and minerals help maintain a healthy immune system.
Research has shown that not consuming enough protein can negatively affect the immune system. A deficiency of high-quality protein can cause a decrease in immune cells, hinder the body’s ability to make antibodies, and cause other immune-related problems. High-quality protein includes eggs, seafood, lean meat, poultry, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Essential Fatty Acids
Even more, studies show that we need to have essential fatty acids in our diet. Why are they considered essential? Our bodies can’t produce them so they must come from the foods we eat. The two acids are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in walnuts; flaxseed, canola, soybean, and walnut oils; and wheat germ. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in nuts, seeds, leafy vegetables, grains, and vegetable oils (safflower, soybean, sesame, and corn, e.g.).
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins A, C, and E top the list of immune system boosters. Furthermore, vitamin A is found in eggs, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, and apricots. Vitamin C is present in citrus fruits, papayas, strawberries, tomatoes, and red bell peppers. Finally, vitamin E is found in almonds and hazelnuts, peanut butter, and spinach.
Topping the mineral list is zinc that could help heal wounds in addition to supporting the immune system. It’s found in poultry, lean meat, milk, seafood, whole grains, beans, and nuts (foods that also help with protein intake–two for one!).
Rather than buying expensive “immune boosters,” consider altering your diet to include foods that support immune health naturally. Not only will you fight off illness better, but you may also even see your overall health improve.
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