They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. While there is no direct way to boost one’s immune system, a nutrient rich diet is necessary for the health and function of all cells. Known nutrients identified as critical for the function of immune cells include antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, and other dietary needs, like iron and protein. Getting enough sleep and staying active are also vital for our health, but 75% of our immune system is found in our gut. This is why a balanced diet is key to maintaining optimal health. Looking to keep your immune system happy and healthy? Look no further than the produce section of your local market. Make sure to include these foods on your next grocery list!
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system. Foods that are high in fiber and protein are great for your diet and treating gut bacteria, as well. Just half a cup of almonds provides about 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E, so get to snacking!
Mushrooms are nutrient-dense veggies that naturally possess antibacterial and antiviral properties. The anti-inflammatory effect of mushrooms has been shown to stimulate microphages in the immune system, making you less susceptible to illness. They are rich in B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Mushrooms can be grilled, stuffed with other tasty vegetables, or added to pasta or rice.
Sweet potatoes contain a substantial amount of vitamin A and many other antioxidants, which work to enhance immune function, defend against infectious diseases, and protect from free radicals that may lead to illness. Studies have also found sweet potatoes to be high in fiber, promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Sweet potatoes can be eaten in several yummy ways -- baked, smoothies, mashed, in a salad, or in the form of chips and fries.
Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins B-6 and E. Vitamin E is important in regulating immune function, while magnesium is good for promoting quality sleep -- another key factor in staying healthy. Sunflower seeds are also rich in selenium, a nutrient that protects the body from free radicals and infections. They are an easy, healthy snack on their own, but they can also be made into sunflower seed butter or added as a crunchy salad topping.
Yogurt contains friendly live bacteria in the form of pre and probiotics. This bacteria is beneficial to gut health, helps fight viruses and infections, and stimulates the immune system. Yogurt also contains vitamin D, which is thought to boost our body’s natural defense against diseases. Look for plain yogurts that are low in sugar and high in live cultures, like Greek yogurt.
Poultry - Venturing outside of the produce section, immune boosting nutrition can be found in the meat section of your local market. The white meat in Chicken and turkey are both high in vitamin B-6, an important factor in the formation of healthy red blood cells. They are also complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids, including histidine. Histidine contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to protect against chronic illness. Poultry can be made in numerous ways, but next time try boiling the bones into a broth. The gelatin and other nutrients that come from the bones provide gut healing and immunity.
As we transition from the cold to warmer months, our immune systems crave nutrient rich diets to promote healthy immunity. A healthy immune system is necessary in life, and proper nutrition is essential to maintaining its health. Staying active, getting quality sleep, and eating right are all important ways to strengthen your immunity. But since much of our immune system is located in the gut, eating these kinds of foods plays a large role in staying healthy. ENJOY!