Your immune system is made up of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect your body from infections and foreign substances. If your immune system is compromised or otherwise weakened, your body becomes more vulnerable to pathogens and other toxins. For your immune system to function at its best, you must ensure that your diet includes diverse, nutritious foods.
Mushrooms contain riboflavin, niacin, selenium and antioxidants, substances that help strengthen your immune system. An animal-model study conducted by nutritional immunologists Simin Meydani and Dayong Wu at Tufts University showed that white button mushrooms increased the activity of natural killer cells, one of the most important components of the immune system. White button mushrooms appeared to boost immune function by increasing the production of antiviral proteins that cells release when they protect and repair tissue.
You can keep your immune system revved up by adding a handful of blueberries to oatmeal or breakfast cereal. Blueberries contain antioxidants that bolster your ability to fight infection and disease. They also provide vitamin C, a key immune-boosting nutrient. Vitamin C can help guard against assaults by free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage your body.
If you are a veggie fan, add broccoli to your menu to help enhance your body's natural defense mechanisms. Broccoli contains a chemical compound called diindolylmethane, or DIM, which boosts your resistance to infections and certain diseases. In addition, DIM increases the number of white blood cells, or lymphocytes, which protect your body against foreign substances and diseases.
Wheat germ contains zinc, antioxidants and vitamin B that are provide immune-enhancing properties. Zinc, a trace element, helps maintain the integrity of your immune system. Zinc deficiency can have a negative effect on the growth and function of your immune cells. However, be aware that too much zinc can inhibit your immune function.
Drinking green tea might help build your body’s resistance. Green tea contains polyphenols, antioxidants that fight free radicals. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that population-based clinical studies suggest that green tea might offer some protection against cancer. Further, it states that 250 to 500 milligrams of green tea daily can enhance immune, anticancer and antioxidant activities.
Garlic is more than just a flavorful addition to your favorite dishes; it also helps boost the performance of your immune system. By incorporating garlic into your meals, you can promote heart health and maintain consistent levels of antioxidants in your body. In addition, garlic intake can help maintain healthy blood pressure.
Red, Yellow and Orange Fruits
Vibrantly colored fruits are packed with immune-boosting nutrients. Red, yellow and orange fruits, for instance, provide vitamins A and C, potassium and antioxidants. According to Cassie Vanderwall, a nutrition consultant at Rush University Medical Center, eating foods high in antioxidants helps rev up your immune system, protect your blood cells from free-radical damage and promote the growth of healthy cells. Choose different colored fruits, such as strawberries, peaches, squash and pineapple, to recharge your immune system and brighten up your plate.
Omega-3 fats commonly found in fish help keep your defenses up by fighting inflammation. Foods containing these healthy fats help reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fish with adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include trout, mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring and sardines.
Yogurt contains probiotics that help maintain the balance of organisms in your gut. A study published in the May 2012 issue of "The Journal of the American Medical Association" found that eating yogurt during a course of antibiotics may help prevent diarrhea, a common side effect of antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics wipe out bad bacteria but also kill beneficial bacteria, leaving you vulnerable. Yogurt can restore the balance in your digestive system.
Ginger promotes sweating, which eliminates toxins from your body. It also helps fight nausea, helps expel mucus from the lungs, fights off chills and activates the immune system, says Jen Green, a licensed naturopathic physician at Beaumont Integrative Medicine. Drink a cup of ginger tea to receive the benefits.
- Culinary Central: Eight Foods to Boost Your Immune System
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Boost Immunity with Food and Sun
- EFNEP California: Blueberries
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Green Tea
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection in Women
- Rush University Medical Center: For Health's Sake, Eat a "Colorful" Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Mala Srivastava covers health and business for several online publications. She holds a Master of Science in microbiology from India's HNB Garhwal University and a Master of Pharmaceutical Business Management from ICFAI University.