May 19, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

7 Foods That Fight Back: Immune System Boosters

3 min read

“Yogurt is rich in probiotics, the good bacteria that support gut health,” says Palinski-Wade. And a large proportion of the immune system is actually in the gastrointestinal tract.

In one study, participants without diabetes who ate yogurt with probiotics daily saw an increase in protective immune function compared with the control group. To avoid added sugar, choose plain, unsweetened yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of protein and a good substitute for sour cream.

Not a yogurt fan? Try other fermented foods instead. One study details a clinical trial of 36 adults given two different diets, chosen because both have shown benefits for gut health, and researchers wanted to determine which would be most useful. The group who ate or drank fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha showed less inflammation compared with a group assigned to a high-fiber diet alone, and had more diversity in their digestive systems’ beneficial bacteria.

Fermented foods and fiber found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are prebiotics, which feed the probiotics in our gut and help them survive.

Other Tips to Boost Your Immune System

Let’s say you load up on all this good stuff and still get socked with a virus. It happens. But continuing with healthy eating will shorten the duration of symptoms if you have a mild case of whatever you’ve caught, says Caldwell.

Keep Eating

“Most important is continuing to eat enough food overall,” Caldwell notes. “We might not be able to totally prevent getting sick by eating well, but if you’re not getting enough nutrients, and especially not enough protein, you’re going to lack the energy to fight it off.”

Skip the Added Sugar and Unhealthy Fats

Also, avoid added sugar when you can. Added sugar is packed into soda, juice, cakes, candy, and cookies, notes the American Heart Association. It can trigger inflammation in the body, research indicates, and when your system is fighting against that, your immune system may not have enough power to combat outside stressors such as pathogens and viruses, according to a study in animals.

“In addition, high amounts of saturated fat and trans fat in the diet can increase inflammation in the same way, and that weakens the immune response,” says Palinski-Wade. These are found in foods like fatty cuts of beef, poultry skin, baked goods, butter, whole milk, palm oil, and coconut-based products, says the USDA.

Drink More Water

“Stay hydrated” has become the mantra in everything from losing weight to boosting energy, and it does provide some magic for improving health overall, says Tiffany DeWitt, RD, a senior research scientist at healthcare company Abbott in Columbus, Ohio.

Proper hydration levels can help multiple bodily systems, including immunity, research shows. Also, Mayo Clinic notes, if you’re already on the cusp of a cold, water can loosen congestion.

Although many people may see juices — especially orange juice — as an effective hydration strategy, and research confirms they may help reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system, nutritionists caution that these drinks are often very high in sugar, so moderation is key.

Your best bet is water, says DeWitt. Electrolytes from beverages like zero-sugar Gatorade can be helpful for allowing your body to absorb fluids better, she adds, but you can also get these through foods without artificial sweeteners, like bananas, avocados, Greek yogurt, nuts, kale, and spinach.

Enjoy Your Food

Whether you’re feeling under the weather or not, eating mindfully can be helpful, simply because you’ll slow down, feel less rushed, and truly enjoy your food, Caldwell says. Stress is linked to poor immune function, research has shown, so see your meals as a chance to chill.

Healthy eating can boost your immunity, and it can lift your spirit and nourish your sense of well-being, too.

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