Can you tell how healthy you are?
Immune health is dependent on a number of factors. Sleep, fitness, diet, genetics, and more all play a role. And although you might only think about your immune system when you need it—like when you’re battling a cold—daily decisions contribute to its effect.
The more you work on it, the better it will likely serve you.
Food choices are central to keeping you healthy and boosting immune strength. When your immune system is firing on all cylinders, you’re less likely to get sick and more likely to have a quick recovery if you happen to fall ill.
A strong immune system requires several vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Malnourished people can see their immune system completely shut down if they don’t get enough to eat. On the other hand, people who have an abundance of calories can still be “malnourished.”
Obese and overweight individuals don’t necessarily have nutrient-dense diets and are often missing the things that promote strong immunity. Instead, they eat in ways that promote immune system hyperactivity, leading to chronic inflammation.
This can boost the risk for a host of conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. At the same time, it can increase the risk of conditions like colds, flu, and other pathogens. It can also inhibit your body’s ability to fight them off.
So, what nutrients might you need to build a stronger immune system that’s ready to go to work when you need it? Here are four that may have some added benefits, and where you can find them.
Protein: When you’re getting protein every day, your body has the tools it needs to manufacture antibodies to fight infections. The best sources of protein are lean meats, poultry, fish, and dairy.
Vitamins and Other Phytonutrients: Fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods have a lot to do with building a healthy immune system and battling inflammation. Vitamin C encourages antibody production and is found in bell peppers, citrus fruits, and many others.
Vitamin A can help protect your respiratory system and digestive health, while other phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables can reduce oxidative stress.
Fiber and Probiotics: Gut health also plays a significant role in immunity. 70% of your immune system is located in your intestines, so an ability to break down food and distribute nutrients optimally can support immune function. High-fiber foods include oats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Eating omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts, may also enhance immune function.
Eating a diverse diet that’s rich in nutrition can help you build a strong immune system that contributes to overall health and lower inflammation. When it’s time to call in the cavalry, you want it ready, willing, and able.