The immune system is one of the systems in the human body. It’s a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs (and the substances they secrete) that help to defend the body against invasion of foreign bodies and disease-causing organisms as well as help the body fight infections.
What is a Diet?
A diet is simply all the foods and drinks that a person, family, or community consumes regularly. A diet is also a certain food or nutrient restriction or supplement to achieve a particular goal; for example, weight loss.
A diet can be good or bad, depending on the type of foods it is composed of and their nutritional value. A good diet — a balanced diet — contains all the vital nutrients required for all body systems to function properly in the right proportion.
Best Diets for a Healthy Immune System
The immune system relies on various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to function. Without a proper diet comprising the essential nutrients the body needs to function, the immune system would become weak and lose its ability to defend the body from diseases.
The best source for these essential nutrients is food. However, there’s no specific food, nutrient, or vitamin proven to boost the body’s immunity. Rather, a combination of different nutrients, vitamins, and minerals will strengthen and maintain the immune system.
Here are some food substances to include in your diet to maintain, strengthen, and boost your immune system.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the important vitamins for the immune system. It’s necessary for the production of white blood cells and antibodies. It also serves as a powerful antioxidant.
Vitamin C can be found in the following foods:
- All citrus fruits: oranges, tangerines, lemons, nectarines, grapefruits.
Your body doesn’t produce or store Vitamin C, so you should take it in daily. Men need about 90 milligrams (mg) per day while women need 75mg. However, if you’re taking supplements, avoid taking more than 2,000mg per day.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is not usually associated with the immune system, but it plays a vital role in it. It helps to reduce the chances of respiratory tract infections. It also regulates antimicrobial proteins that eliminate pathogens directly.
Its sources include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, or tuna
- Fortified dairy
- Egg yolks
3. Vitamin E
Another essential vitamin that helps to boost the immune system is Vitamin E. It’s an antioxidant that protects cells in the body from damage by free radicals. It strengthens their physiological function and helps to increase the percentage of white blood cells.
You can find Vitamin E in:
- Sunflower seeds
- Nuts, such as almond nuts and hazelnuts
The recommended daily intake for Vitamin E is 15mg.
This mineral is important to overall health. It aids the maturation of lymphocytes and is a key component of enzymes and compounds that make up innate immunity.
Iron can be found in:
- Lean meat
- Beans and other legumes
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory fats that help to keep your immune system in shape and maintain the chemical balance of your body.
These foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
Zinc is one of the most important building blocks of the immune. It’s vital in the creation and sustenance of white blood cells. It also promotes wound healing and fast immune response.
Foods rich in zinc are some of the best foods for the immune system. They include:
- Turkey meat
- Crab, lobster, and mussel
The recommended daily intake of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8mg for women.
7. Beta Carotene
This orange-yellow compound found mainly in carrots is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals. The body also converts beta carotene into active vitamin A, which is also important for your immune system. Beta carotene is another nutrient that is better consumed from food, rather than from supplements.
Beta carotene can be found in:
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens (kale, spinach, cabbage)
- Egg yolks
Selenium is a vital component of enzymes and proteins that helps in the creation of DNA as well as offers protection against cell damage and infections.
Foods that contain selenium include:
- Sunflower seeds
9. Vitamin A
Vitamin A protects the body from pathogen invasions by maintaining the tissues in the mouth, stomach, and respiratory tract. It also repairs and nourishes the skin and the eyes.
Vitamin A can be found in the following foods:
- Red peppers
- Fish oils
Foods containing beta carotene are also sources of Vitamin A because the body can convert beta carotene to vitamin A.
If you want your diet to maintain and boost your immune system but don’t know how to start, consider incorporating the following superfoods for the immune system into your diet.
- Broccoli: This vegetable is rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E, along with essential minerals like iron and selenium.
- Salmon: It contains vitamins A and E, along with omega-3 fatty acids and selenium.
- Nuts: Nuts like almond nuts, walnuts, and cashew nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D.
- Potatoes: They’re a source of vitamin A, selenium, and beta carotene.
- Red bell peppers: They’re rich in vitamins A, C, and D, and antioxidants.
Note that all these nutrients don’t impact the immune system on their own. Rather, they strengthen and boost the immune system when they’re consumed in the right proportions and dosages.
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