The internet has no shortage of health gurus telling you that a balanced diet is crucial for immune support and proper wellness. While that’s true, many of these influencers won’t tell you what a balanced diet includes. It’s not the same for everyone, but there are some staples that you want to eat to keep your immune system strong. It’s always good to check with your functional medicine doctor to tailor your diet to your specific needs. In this article, we’ll cover some of the immune-boosting superfoods you need to feel your best and avoid illnesses that affect many people today.
You hear a lot in the media about superfoods, but the term is used so frequently that it almost sounds like a gimmick. When we talk about superfoods, we aren’t referring to the marketing solutions that line the shelves in grocery stores and health food markets. We mean nutrient-dense foods that contain the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. These foods positively impact your well-being and help your body fight off or prevent disease. Let’s look at the superfoods that are known to help boost your immune function.
We talk frequently about how important gut health is for your immune system. A healthy balance of good bacteria will nurture your microbiome and aid your digestive system. That bacteria helps keep your immunity strong. (1) Probiotic-rich foods include kimchi, plain yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Look for sources that contain less or no sugar, since sugar is inflammatory. Not a fan of these foods? You can always include a daily probiotic.
Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, limes, lemons, and grapefruits contain high levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C can help you fight off infections by increasing white blood cells. (2) It is an antioxidant that can help reduce your inflammatory response to infections. If you don’t eat enough citrus fruits, you can use a quality vitamin C supplement to help support your immune system.
Leafy greens like spinach, collards, and kale have high levels of vitamin C, along with beta carotene, that may help fight infections. These are also good for your heart, gut, and brain health. It’s easy to incorporate leafy greens into your diet because you can eat them in a salad or sautee them for a quick side dish.
Berries are lower in sugar than other fruits and they pack a nutritional punch. Berries provide magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, prebiotics, and more. They also promote gut health and may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. (3) Strawberries and blueberries contain anthocyanins that can help maintain a proper weight, which also helps keep your immune system strong. Berries are so versatile. You can add them to yogurt, smoothies, and salads or enjoy them as a snack.
Fish have high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can increase your white blood cell activity, helping your immune system fight infections. Fish oil also lowers the inflammation in your body. Some of the best fish to consume are salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids also promote heart and brain health. The suppression of inflammation is how omega-3s help fight illnesses and diseases. (4) If seafood just isn't for you, then consider an omega-3 supplement.
If your mom ever told you to eat the rainbow, she wasn’t wrong. Brightly colored veggies like red peppers have higher levels of vitamin C than some citrus fruits. The beta carotene in carrots is great for your immune function, eyes, and skin. (5) Eating different colors of veggies can help keep you satiated and won’t lead to dietary boredom.
Olive oil has been found to have biological properties that fight against inflammation. It’s been shown to help with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases. (6) When you buy olive oil, you must be careful not to get the cheapest brand you find. You don’t want a rancid oil that has no health benefits. Quality olive oil may be a bit more expensive, but it’s worth the cost.
Many people don’t use spices these days, but for centuries, they were used for health purposes. Spices like garlic, turmeric, and ginger are considered to have immune-boosting properties that help fight infection. If you want a refreshing drink, consider adding ginger with some lemon or lime to your sparkling water.
Nuts like walnuts and almonds contain magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and B6. Sunflower seeds also have these nutrients, and eating a small handful can provide you with an energy-boosting snack. The vitamins and minerals in nuts and seeds help regulate and maintain your immune system.
Protein is one of the most overlooked food sources for many people. You can get protein from animal and plant sources, like beef, chicken, bean, lentils, and eggs. There are amino acids in the protein that are essential for T-cell function, which protects your body against pathogens. (7) If you think you’re too busy to get enough protein in your meals, consider using a healthy protein powder that contains all essential amino acids. A word of caution regarding protein powders is to read the ingredient label and be sure it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals that could reduce your immune function.
This is one that you can get excited about. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, an antioxidant that may help boost the immune system by protecting your body’s cells from free radicals. When you look for dark chocolate, it’s best to get the kind with at least 70 percent cacao for the most health benefits. (8)
There are so many ways to boost your immune function. The foods you eat are crucial to how your immune system protects you against infections and diseases. You also need to make exercise a priority, as movement is critical to keeping your body strong. Sleep is also one of the most important things you can do for your immune system because your body heals as you sleep. A balanced diet means you incorporate foods that strengthen your immunity and make your health better. If you have questions on how to eat the proper foods in the correct amounts for your health needs, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us for more information on how holistic healthcare may be the right choice for you.