The foods and drinks you enjoy every day contribute to your health and immunity and can actually help to improve it. Here are five nutrition tips to support your health and immune system.
Power Up with Protein
The building blocks of protein, known as amino acids, support the body's function of immune system cells, neurotransmitters, hormones, and all the cells that make up your tissues (Li et al., 2007). Some protein-rich foods like salmon, trout, sardines, eggs, and low-fat dairy like yogurt, also help promote optimal vitamin D absorption, which further benefits your immune system functioning (Institute of Medicine, 2010).
Pack In Antioxidants
While protein gives you the tools, vitamins, and minerals, keep those tools up to maintenance! Some of the antioxidants available in food include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and more to protect the body and immune system from harmful free .radicals. Focus on colorful fruits and vegetables, including dark leafy greens, deep red and purple colors like berries, and vibrant orange colors like bell peppers and oranges. Foods like nuts and seeds are not only great sources of immune-supporting minerals but also include heart-healthy fats.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Swap out the alcohol. You may have heard that wine provides antioxidants; however, it also provides alcohol. Alcohol is identified as a toxin in the body, and it stresses our health and immune system as it works to detoxify and remove alcohol from our body carefully. Save your body the stress and go for whole foods to get your nutrition. A serving of grapes in its whole-food form provides you with the perfect antioxidant-rich package (Singh et al., 2015).
Speaking of drinks, water is singlehandedly the most important drink for you and your health. Among its many benefits, water helps maintain your body temperature, lubricate joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and get rid of waste. Focus on at least half of your body weight in ounces of water every day as a minimum. This means a 150lb individual should be drinking a minimum of 75oz of water every day (Popkin et al., 2011).
Incorporate Fermented Foods
Adding in some fermented foods and drinks can do wonders for your gut health and immune system. Fermented foods replace the "good bacteria" in your gut which, in turn, help to kill off the harmful bacteria that can make you sick. You may also be surprised to know that these good bacteria are necessary to help your body synthesize several B vitamins as well as Vitamin K (Şanlier et al. 2017). Some great options to incorporate into your diet include pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. If you're feeling creative, you can even ferment your own foods at home!
Jennifer Hatz, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, CSCS
- Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW, Wu G. Amino acids and immune function. Br J Nutr. 2007 Aug;98(2):237-52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17403271/
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56070/
- Bendich A. Physiological role of antioxidants in the immune system. J Dairy Sci. 1993 Sep;76(9):2789-94. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8227682/