Want to fight off that illness that’s spreading around the office or your child’s school? Aside from practicing good hygiene, boosting your immune system is a great way to start. What you eat is important for maintaining a healthy body. In this world of processed foods, would you know that you are getting all the right nutrients from the foods you eat?
Your diet plays a part in strengthening your immune system. Sadly, too many of us don’t eat enough of the fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods we need to keep ourselves healthy year-round. You can’t just eat an orange or grapefruit and expect one quick burst of vitamin C to prevent a cold. A truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals over time, plus normal sleep patterns and a hefty dose of exercise. Here are my top 10 nutrients you need for a healthy body and mind by building a strong foundation from the foods you eat.
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10 Best Nutrients For Building Strong Immune System
Of the many functions of protein in your body, one of its most critical is supporting your immune system. The immune response protects you against harmful microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria, as well as foreign substances that might attack your defenses, such as a thorn or flames from a fire. It is often referred to as the “building block of life” because the body needs it to repair and maintain itself every day. Sources include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, milk, cheese and yogurt.
2. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Many studies praise the benefits of the essential fatty acid known as Omega 3. Sourced from fish oil, Omega 3 has been shown to help achieve optimal immune health, reduce inflammation and even help reduce body fat. Here we take a look at the reasons you should be including it in your diet and the benefits it can provide.
Omega-3s are especially needed by the body (as opposed to the Omega-6 that is plentiful in most people’s diets). ALA, DHA and EPA are the most common omega-3 fatty acids and they help the body create cells, regulate the nervous system, strengthen the circulatory system, build immunity and assist with absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A,D, E and K.
Food sources include oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna (not canned), nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds (also referred to as linseeds) and, wait for it, leafy green vegetables!
Yes, this is one of the most important nutrients that is often overlooked. It is required for digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients, elimination of waste products and hormonal harmony. Water accounts for 50-80% of your body weight, depending on the amount of muscle mass.
When we think of fiber we think of bowel motions. Fiber is most defiantly needed for proper functioning of the gut and is associated with reducing the risk of chronic ailments such as heart disease and Type II diabetes. Excellent sources of fiber include oat bran, psyllium husks, nuts, seeds, lentils, fruits such as papaya and apples, and vegetables such as carrots and broccoli. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, cabbage, leafy green vegetables and whole grains.
The carbohydrates I am referring to are not the processed variety but your basic fruits and vegetables in the form nature provided them. Try and eat more vegetables in their raw form or slightly steam to retain their nutrients. There are some exceptions such as tomatoes where the lycopene is more readily available to the body once it is heated.
6. Vitamin B6
This important vitamin — part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in your body — is critical in how your immune system functions. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish such as tuna, baked potatoes and chickpeas. Bring on the hummus!
7. Vitamin C
You probably know about vitamin C’s connection to the immune system, but did you know you can get it from much more than just citrus fruits? Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya are also excellent sources. In fact, vitamin C is in so many foods that most people may not need to take supplements unless a doctor advises it.
8. Folate/folic acid
Folate is the natural form, and folic acid is the synthetic form, often added to foods because of its health benefits. To get more folate, add more beans and peas to your plate on a regular basis, as well as leafy green vegetables. You can also get folic acid in fortified foods (check the label) such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and other 100 percent whole-grain products.
Iron, which helps your body carry oxygen to cells, comes in different forms. Your body can more easily absorb “heme iron,” which is abundant in lean poultry such as chicken and turkey, plus seafood. But never fear, vegetarians: You can get other forms of iron in beans, broccoli and kale.
Iron and blood production go hand in hand. Around 70% of the body’s iron is found in the red blood cells (hemoglobin) and muscle cells (myoglobin). If you are tired and exhausted, you may be deficient in iron as it is the hemoglobin that is responsible for the movement of oxygen from the lungs to all cells of the body. Great sources of iron include red meat, tuna, eggs, poultry, salmon and legumes.
Absolutely crucial for healthy teeth and bones as well as nerves and muscles. Sources include dairy, leafy green vegetables, sardines, mussels, salmon and figs.