Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from infections and diseases in general.
There are natural ways you can support your immune system and encourage a healthy response to illness or pathogens.
Encouraging natural immune system health is step one in helping your body fight off illness in general.
Let’s look at some of the most important foods you should include in your diet to support your immune system.
What Is Your Immune System?
Your immune system is essentially how your body protects itself from pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
White blood cells play an important role as security guards, patrolling your body for these unhealthy and unwelcome visitors.
These cells attack pathogens and protect you from infection and illness.
It’s important to eat a nutritious diet that boosts white blood cell count and gives your immune system the foundation it needs to keep you healthy.
Foods To Support Your Immune System
Certain nutrients are essential when it comes to supporting your immune system.
By choosing foods naturally high in these vitamins and minerals, you’re giving your immune system various benefits to help it protect your body from pathogens.
Let’s look at why these nutrients are so beneficial for immune health, and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
1. Citrus Fruits
Of all the essential nutrients, vitamin C is one of the best supporters of your immune system.
This is due to its role in increasing the production of white blood cells, which fight infection.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it fights oxidative stress and helps your body’s tissue repair itself from damage.
This vitamin also helps prevent and mitigate respiratory and systemic infections.
It’s necessary to get sufficient amounts of this vitamin through your diet, because your body cannot produce vitamin C on its own.
Citrus fruits are a great dietary source of vitamin C, so consider including some of these tasty and nutritious fruits to help out your immune system.
Popular citrus fruits include:
From adding a squeeze of lemon to a glass of hot water, to using the zest or juice of one of these fruits in a savoury dish — there are plenty of ways to add vitamin C to your daily routine.
2. Fortified Milk Alternatives
Nowadays, some foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help you ensure you’re getting enough of the essential nutrients your body needs.
One of the most popular and widely accessible fortified foods is milk and milk alternatives.
Many varieties of cow’s milk, almond, and other nut milks, and rice milk are fortified with vitamin D because of how common vitamin D deficiencies are, especially in Canada.
Vitamin D is not just beneficial for your bone health — it’s also a key factor in the health of your immune system.
If you’re deficient in vitamin D, your immune system suffers and you may become more susceptible to infection.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Ensuring you have enough of this essential will help protect your immune system and decrease your risk of developing a deficiency.
Fortified milk products and alternatives are a plentiful dietary source of vitamin D and an easy way to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential vitamin.
Known for being abundant with nutrients and healthy fats, nuts are a delicious snack with immune-boosting properties.
This is because of the vitamins and minerals they contain, specifically vitamin E and zinc.
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, has shown to play an important role in maintaining the health of your immune system.
Like we’ve seen with vitamin D, vitamin E deficiency is linked to increased infections, as well as increased incidence of tumours.
The above study also noted vitamin E supplementation helped improve immunity in elderly individuals with immune cell damage.
Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, it requires fat to be present for your body to absorb it properly.
Nuts are chockfull of healthy fats, making them the perfect vitamin E delivery device.
Zinc is another essential nutrient found in nuts that benefits your immune system.
By decreasing oxidative stress (which causes cell damage) and inflammation, zinc helps reduce your chances of developing an infection and supports immune health.
If you’re deficient in zinc, it will take a toll on your immune system by causing or exacerbating immune dysfunctions.
Nuts including almonds, peanuts, and cashews are a few excellent dietary sources of zinc.
Eggs are naturally high in vitamin A, which has a huge impact on your immune system.
Vitamin A is a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory properties that is crucial for the development of your immune system.
It also helps regulate your body’s immune response and helps you heal from infection and infectious diseases.
Eggs are one of the top dietary sources of vitamin A, and they contain the fat necessary for your body to absorb this fat-soluble vitamin.
From boiling to poaching to baking, there are many nutritious and delicious ways to prepare this vitamin-rich food.
5. Probiotic Foods
Probiotics aren’t only beneficial for your gastrointestinal system.
They also help promote “T cells”, or T lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that protects your body from cancer cells and pathogens.
Studies have displayed that probiotics show therapeutic potential for immune response-related diseases and have immunoregulatory effects.
The best dietary sources of probiotics are fermented foods, which have undergone a metabolic process that cultivates healthy bacteria from sugar and starch.
Yogurt can be high in probiotics, but make sure to check the label for active cultures.
Other probiotic-rich foods include miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.
Book An Appointment At Annex Naturopathic
The wellbeing of your immune system is crucial when it comes to preventing infection and staying healthy.
You can boost your immune strength by mindfully consuming a nutritious diet full of essential nutrients.
The above vitamins and minerals provide your immune system with the foundation it needs to keep your body strong and well.
If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disorder or another condition that affects (or is affected by) your immune health, it’s even more important to take care of your immune system — and we can help.
If you want to know more about natural solutions for immune health, contact us at Annex Naturopathic, a Toronto clinic for naturopathic medicine.
We would love to work with you on an all-natural treatment plan that works for you and your body.
Book an appointment with Annex Naturopathic today.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND