Eating Healthy for a Better Immune System

The human body’s immune system is its best defense against disease. It does a remarkable job of keeping us healthy. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? What if you improve your diet? 

Diet is one of the most important factors to a healthy immune system.  Feeding your body certain foods helps keep your immune system strong. It is very important to teach children from a young age about a good and healthy nutrition, its benefits and functioning.  At Tessa, we try to implement these notions to our students during lunch, snacks and special activities. Parents can also help by developing healthy eating habits for themselves and their household.

No food or supplement can prevent illness but you may help support your immune system by including these nutrients in your eating plan on a regular basis:

Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. 

Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. 

Vitamin C supports the immune system by stimulating the formation of antibodies. 

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and may support immune function. 

Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal.

Here are some examples of foods that contain those nutrients. But most importantly, variety is the key to proper nutrition. 

1. Citrus fruits

citrus

Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.  Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Popular citrus fruits include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Other fruits loaded in vitamin C are kiwis and Papaya. 

2. Red bell peppers

red bell pepper

Surprisingly, bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. 

3. Broccoli

broccoli

Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.

4. Garlic

garlic

Garlic adds a little zing to food and it’s a must-have for your health. Early civilizations recognized its value in fighting infections.

5. Ginger

ginger

Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea.

6. Spinach

spinach

Spinach is rich in vitamin C and also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid.

7. Yogurt

yogurt

Yogurts are a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with vitamin D and plain yogurts. 

8. Almonds

almonds

When it comes to preventing and fighting off colds, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, vitamin E is key to a healthy immune system. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats. A half-cup serving provides nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark leafy greens.

9. Green tea

green tea

Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.

10. Poultry

poultry

When you’re sick, chicken soup is more than just a feel-good food with a placebo effect. It helps improve symptoms of a cold and also helps protect you from getting sick in the first place. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. 

11. Sunflower seeds

sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorousmagnesium, and vitamin B-6. They’re also incredibly high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.

12. Shellfish

shelfish

Shellfish isn’t what jumps to mind for many who are trying to boost their immune system, but some types of shellfish are packed with zinc.

Zinc doesn’t get as much attention as many other vitamins and minerals, but our bodies need it so that our immune cells can function as intended.

Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include:

  • crab
  • clams
  • lobster
  • mussels

Sources: 

https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition
https://www.thedailymeal.com/11-creative-ways-teach-your-kids-about-healthy-eating
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system#other-options
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

Tessa International School

Office: (201) 755-5585 | Location: 702 Monroe St. Hoboken, NJ 07030