We have heard that our diet can influence our immune function. The food we eat or the diet we follow will impact our immune system. Not only during the COVID-19 season but during flu season and other times of illness, most people run behind a healthy diet and food intake as they play a vital role in immune function and can prevent and fight against viral infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that seasonal influenza results in 3-5 million cases yearly. Today, we have understood that immune function plays an important role in protecting us against those harmful diseases. But what does it exactly do, and how nutrition plays a vital role in them?
The Role of Nutrition in Immune Function
On a daily basis, we are constantly facing lots of viruses and harmful microbes. Our immune system plays a vital role in protecting us against those harmful microbes by recognizing those invaders and fights against them. Our body consists of two types of immunity – innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
- Innate Immunity
Innate immunity is recognized as the first line of defense as it contains physical barriers like skin, mucous membranes, and cellular defenses. When innate immunity fails to protect adaptivity immunity takes over.
- Adaptive Immunity
The adaptive immune system contains specialized blood cells and proteins that can find and fight against the specific cause of infection.
Foods That Can Boost the Immune Function
Researchers have discovered that people who eat blueberries were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection and the common cold. Blueberries contain anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost the person’s immune system.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolates are high in calories, and theobromine, an antioxidant that helps to boost the immune system by protecting the body from free radicals. These free radicals can damage the cells in our body and lead to various diseases.
Turmeric is a traditional spice that is used for various purposes but mostly used for cooking. It is also used as medicine. Consuming turmeric can increase our immune system.
- Oily Fish
Oily fishes like salmon, tuna, and pilchards are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Another source of vitamin C is broccoli which contains potent antioxidants known as sulforaphane. Eating broccoli regularly can support our immune system.
- Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes are rich in beta carotene, a source of vitamin A that helps to make your skin healthy and protect your skin against ultraviolet rays.
Spinach contains lots of nutrients and vitamins like flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, Vitamin E that can actually boost your immune function and protect you against the common cold.
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich food added to a variety of desserts and dishes due to its health benefits.
Garlic is basically used as a home remedy for the prevention of old and other illnesses. Garlic contains allicin that plays an important role in protecting you against cold.
- Green Tea
Along with blueberries, green tea also contains flavonoids which can also reduce the risk of cold. Drinking green tea can boost your immune system as they contain only a small amount of caffeine.
Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria. Researchers found that drinking kefir can increase antioxidant activity and reduce the risk of inflammation.
- Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can add extra taste to your salads and breakfast bowls and can fight against free radicals.
Another source of vitamin E is Almonds. They also contain manganese, magnesium, and fiber. A small handful of almonds or 5-6 almonds per day can increase your immune system.
Kiwis are a rich source of vitamin C that can reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve your immune system.
- Bell Pepper
Bell peppers are an excellent alternative to vitamin C, especially red bell peppers. Rather than boiling and steaming, stir-frying and roasting can retain its nutrient content.
Rather than running behind vitamins, supplements, and other ways to improve your immune system, it is better to intake the 15 foods mentioned above to strengthen your immune function and protect you against various health disorders and fight off viruses. Eating a healthy diet is the only way to improve your immune system.