Boost your immune system with food!
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
When we are in the middle of a flu, some vitamins and nutrients are essential for a healthy immune system. A lot of supplements can be a real boost for immunity, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, zinc and magnesium. Foods rich in these nutrients help us keep our immune cells warriors strong and ready for the fight. Which foods can help our body heal and recover from an infection?
FRESH FRUITS ARE RICH IN VITAMIN C
Lemons, oranges, Guavas, Blackcurrants, Strawberries, Kiwi, papayas, but also Persimmons are packed in vitamins especially vitamins C.
Vitamin C is a powerful anti oxidant, and is essential for some immune cells to function and defend themselves. Many studies have shown its benefits when facing an infection. While supplement can be taken, taking the vitamin C from the fruits have the benefit of a better absorption, and there is no risque of toxicity. Vitamin C has been found to be the only vitamin that can help prevent illness and is recommended to protect ourselves against infection. (1,2)
WHOLE GRAINS RICH IN VITAMINS B AND ZINC AND FIBERS
All the vitamins B, especially B6 and B12, and Zinc are essential to energy reactions in our body. When under the stress of an infection our immunes cells are consuming and producing a lot of energy, and these nutrients will help them fight better.
Whole grains are the best source of vitamin B and zinc. Switch your bread to wholewheat bread, pasta to wholewheat pasta, rice to brown rice to increase these nutrients in your diet and help your immune system fight the infection. (3,4,5)
NUTS SEEDS AND AVOCADO RICH IN VITAMIN E
Nuts, seeds and avocado are known to contain healthy fat like omega 3, they are also rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E is essential to support our immune system in the battle as it is a powerful antioxidant. Recent studies have also shown that this vitamin is extremely important for fighting against stress and balancing our hormones system. (6)
KIMCHI, TEMPEH, KEFIR, YOGURT BEST SOURCE OF PROBIOTICS
Our intestinal flora or gut is interacting directly with our immune system, so everything that keeps it healthy will also help our immune cells fight the infection.
Probiotics are good bacteria that are the same as the ones living in our intestin. While we can take probiotics as a supplement, some food helps repopulate our guts with healthy streams of germs and keep a robust gut and immune system. (7)
LEAFY GREENS AND GREEN VEGETABLES RICH IN FIBERS
Fibres are foods for the guts and are called prebiotic. Increasing food rich in fibres will help your healthy bacteria to grow and strengthen your gut and immune system.
Spinach, Kale, broccoli are all rich in Fibres vitamin B and Zinc and help fight infection. (8)
Sugar has been proven in many studies to have a negative effect on our immune system. Hyperglycaemia impairs many immunes cells in their function and it is the main reason why diabetes patients are more sensible to infection. While battling an infection, or even just to protect ourselves to catch it, it is helpful to avoid these hyperglycaemia by avoiding table sugar, sodas, dessert and sweets, which can raise our blood glucose. (9)
It is always better to eat healthy even before getting sick. A balanced diet, rich in nutrients and vitamins and low in sugar and processed products, is a major help in preventing disease. Eating a healthy diet fights viruses and bacteria before they even get in our bodies and helps our immune system to protect us against infections.
1. Vitamin C and immune function. Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2009 Feb;32(2):49-54;Ströhle A1, Hahn A.
2. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11). pii: E1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211.Carr AC1, Maggini S2.
3.Effects of dietary antioxidants on the immune function of middle-aged adults. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 Feb;58(1):79-84.Hughes DA1.
4. Vitamin B6 supplementation increases immune responses in critically ill patients. Cheng CH1, Chang SJ, Lee BJ, Lin KL, Huang YC. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;60(10):1207-13. Epub 2006 May 3.
5. Vitamin B-6 deficiency impairs interleukin 2 production and lymphocyte proliferation in elderly adults. Meydani SN1, Ribaya-Mercado JD, Russell RM, Sahyoun N, Morrow FD, Gershoff SN. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 May;53(5):1275-80.
6. 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E. Atli Arnarson. PhD
7. Probiotics, Infection and Immunity
George T Macfarlane et al. Curr Opin Infect Dis. Oct 2002
8. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health BenefitsJoanne Slavin
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, 1334 Eckles Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55344, USA
Nutrients 2013, 5(4), 1417-1435;
9. Relationship Between Hyperglycemia and Infection in Critically Ill Patients, Simona O., Butler Pharm.D., Dr. Imad F. Btaiche Pharm.D., Dr. Cesar Alaniz Pharm.D. Pharmacotherapy. 2005 Jul;25(7):963-76. First published: 16 January 2012 https://doi.org/10.1592/phco.2005.25.7.963