Support Your Immune System With Nutrition
The immune system is a complex “system” requiring many parts working together to function at its best. There are many variables that impact the immune system including foods in the diet. In general, choosing a healthy lifestyle and following sound nutrition guidance is a great way to support your immune system. One way to accomplish this is to make sure that your diet is balanced and includes a variety of foods. Including the following nutrients in your diet will help you support your immune system with nutrition.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps fights free radicals in the body which may help prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease. Vitamin C also helps produce collagen and aids in the absorption of iron. Food sources for vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwifruit, berries and melons.
Vitamin A plays a role in the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. The term “vitamin A” refers either to retinol, or to certain carotenoids. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein help reduce the damage from free radicals. Foods high in carotenoids may also be effective in helping prevent certain cancers and decrease your risk of macular degeneration. Foods high in carotenoids include red, orange, deep-yellow and some dark-green leafy vegetables; these include sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, winter squash and broccoli.
The immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D is also needed for health and to maintain strong bones, aid in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, help regulate calcium in our blood, help muscles function and allows the brain and body to communicate through nerves.. There are a limited number of foods that naturally contain vitamin D such as salmon and mackerel. There are small amounts in cheese, egg yolk and beef liver. Most of the vitamin D in our diets come from fortified foods such milk and cereals.
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and may support immune function. Researchers continue to study its possible role in helping to protect your body from cell damage that can lead to chronic illness. Food sources for vitamin E include fortified cereals, whole-grains, vegetable oils, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.
Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as lean meat, poultry and seafood, but can also be found in vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, nuts, tofu, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, soy products and lentils.