The immune system plays an essential role in helping us fend off attacks from viruses and bacteria. Here’s how diet and lifestyle can maximize your immune system’s ability to protect you from foreign invaders.
How diet can boost the immune system
Get enough vitamins: Nutrition is our primary protection in the battle against infection. Key soldiers in the fight include vitamins like A, C, E, B6, D, and minerals like zinc, iron, and selenium. Some foods that are rich in these vitamins include carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, almonds, avocados, salmon, oysters, tuna, lean chicken breast, and beef.
The reason many of these vitamins help maintain a strong immune system is that they are also antioxidants. Antioxidants help buffer the effects of free radicals, which are harmful chemicals that damage healthy cells and genetic material, giving viruses a better shot at invading, reproducing, and compromising our immune system farther. Antioxidants work to buffer this effect by counteracting the damage caused by free radicals and help our immune system prevent, treat, and suppress viral activity.
Eat protein: According to Harvard Health Publishing, you should be getting a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in order to avoid getting sick. Not enough can have detrimental effects on your T-cells., which dispatch disease-fighting antibodies to viruses and bacteria and is an essential part of the immune system.
Protein also contains high amounts of zinc, which is a mineral that aids in the production of white blood cells, which fight infection. Good places to find lean protein include seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs, and beans.
Consume prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are found in foods such as onion, garlic, banana, and asparagus. They assist in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, which is a vital player in how your immune system functions. Prebiotics work by increasing the population of “good bacteria” in the gut which in turn sparks the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are tiny proteins that help the immune system function.
Eat the rainbow: An easy way — though not essential — to make sure you’re getting enough immune-boosting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are to “eat the rainbow,”
This includes a rainbow of fruits and vegetables like, “red apples, potatoes, cherries or grapes; orange sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango, yams or tangerines; green kiwi, broccoli, olives, limes or grapes; yellow apples, pears, bananas, or pineapple; blueberries, cabbage, kale, grapes or raisins; and tan cauliflower, dates, coconut, nuts or sauerkraut.”
How lifestyle changes can boost the immune system
Exercise, sleep, and keeping smoke-free are also ways you can give your immune system a better fighting chance at fending off invaders.
Get sufficient sleep: If you lack restful sleep, you will be more susceptible to infections since sleep is when your body works its hardest to combat inflammation and infection.
This inflammation can overstress the immune system making it less effective at fighting viral or bacterial infections. Although the amount of sleep you will need is highly individual, it’s recommended that most adults get between seven to eight hours each night.
Quit smoking: .Antibodies are the proteins produced by the immune system to fight foreign infections.
Exercise: Starting and staying active has been shown to help immune health. According to a 2019 study, exercise has a multitude of benefits including decreasing inflammation and improving immune regulation, which can delay the negative effects of aging. The study also found that moderate exercise can reduce the risk of illness.
With all this in mind, it is also important to remember that handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent infections from viruses or bacteria. It won’t boost your immune system, but it can help keep you protected, nonetheless.