We know that one key to a strong and healthy immune system is nutrition, and so we want to help you choose foods that can help your immune system!
Our immune system is made up of many different special cells that are ready to protect us by attacking and destroying foreign invaders that make their way into our bodies. A healthy immune system is always ready; alert and prepared to act. It is important for all of us to provide our the right nutrients to help support this vital body system.
What foods are important for the health of our immune system?
– Essential Fatty Acids: EFAs are a hot topic in the nutrition world today. These fatty acids, or fats, are necessary for us to get in our diet because our bodies cannot make them. EFAs are required to maintain the health of our immune system, and they can be found in nuts, seeds, fish, hemp seeds and oil, and flax oil. Include good fats from these sources in your diet.
– Increase those fruits and vegetables, and ensure you are getting a variety. These foods have a high nutrient density-this means that there are many valuable nutrients per calorie. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals essential to our well being. Provide lots of colourful, chewy, healthy snacks like carrot, zucchini, and bell pepper sticks, with yogurt or nut butter dips.
– One very important nutrient necessary for the immune system is Vitamin C, found in many different fruits and vegetables. According to Haas, ascorbic acid, “may activate neutrophils, the most prevalent white blood cells that work on the frontline defense in more hand-to-hand combat than other white blood cells. It also seems to increase production of lymphocytes, the white cells important in antibody production and in coordinating the cellular immune functions” (143). Try adding citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, tangerines, and grapefruits into your daily regime, and try ensuring you consume red and green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, parsley, and dark leafy greens, all of which are great sources of vitamin C.
– Avoid refined sugar as it can “freeze” the immune system. It is also known that “large quantities (of sugar) weaken the enzymes of Essential Fatty Acid metabolism” (Galland), and we know that EFAs are required for a healthy functioning immune system. If you are feeling under-the-weather, try eating a piece of fruit instead of a chocolate bar to help support the body in its fight against bacteria or viruses.
– Good bacteria: Our bodies are full of millions and millions tiny bacteria that play a vital role in our health. These little organisms help our digestive systems and our immune systems. Good bacteria can be found in plain natural yogurt; try adding a natural granola or puffed cereal to plain organic yogurt and add some fresh or frozen berries for a healthy and delicious breakfast or snack!
– Stress can lower immunity, along with low self-esteem and emotional extremes (Haas). What can help stress levels? Exercise. Exercise is important to keep the blood and lymph flowing through the body. Get out and get some fresh air, go for a walk, reconnect to nature. Just do something that you can enjoy and that will decrease the amount of stress in your life. Little things can make us feel better!
– It is also important to be aware of environmental pollutants that you may be exposed to, as these can greatly affect the immune system; smog, drugs, and chemicals, such as pesticides (Haas).
– Adequate water intake is important as water helps flush out impurities from the body. Ensure you are drinking enough throughout the day, and remember that if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated, so keep a water bottle with you all day, and remember to send your kids to school with water bottles.
– Fiber plays a role in the immune system as it binds to toxics and helps to clear the colon. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Add hemp seeds and flax seeds to your cereals, and add oat bran to your baking.
The immune system is standing guard against attackers who will make you sick, and so it is important to help support it by making smart nutrition choices.
Galland, L. Superimmunity For Kids. New York: Copperstone Press, 1988.
Haas, E. Staying Health with Nutrition. Berkeley, 1992.