There are many nutrients that are involved in the regular functioning of the immune system and therefore eating a variety of healthy foods each day is important to support immune function.
Give your immune system adequate nutrition to support your body’s natural defenses.
1- Maintain a balanced diet with adequate vitamins and minerals from all food groups
2- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables-antioxidants reduce oxidative stress
Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables provide nutrients that can support immune function and are also rich in antioxidants which can help reduce oxidative stress.1
Beta-carotene: Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and regulate immune function and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamins C and E: Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, papaya and strawberries, amongst other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E sources include nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
Vitamin D: Studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation, especially in deficient people, may reduce the risk for respiratory tract infections. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified milks and supplements.2
Zinc: Zinc is essential for the normal development and function of cells mediating immunity which defend against pathogens. It can be found in beans, nuts, certain types of seafood, whole grains, and dairy products.
Obtaining these nutrients from foods is preferred, so be sure to speak with your health care provider or a clinical Dietician before choosing to take any supplements. 3
3- Adequate Protein- This plays a role in the body's immune system in terms of healing and recovery. Eat a variety of protein rich foods including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
4- Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation and disrupts protective immunity. Over-nutrition that results in obesity has been linked to an increased risk for influenza and other infections such as pneumonia, with delayed antiviral responses and recovery. 4
5- Avoid under-nutrition/malnutrition
Under-nutrition is associated with immunosuppression, which can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection and protection against several types of autoimmune disease. 5
Proper hygiene is still necessary to help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others.
- N.D, Barnard , D.M.,Goldman, Loomis J.F, et al. Plant-based diets for cardiovascular safety and performance in endurance sports. Nutrients. 10 January 2019.
- Martineau A.R, Jolliffe D.A, Greenberg L, Aloia J.F, Bergman P, Dubnov-Raz G, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory infections: individual participant data meta-analysis.Health Technol Assess 2019;23(2).
- Honce, R.,Schultz- Cherry, S. Impact of Obesity on Influenza A Virus Pathogenesis, Immune Response, and Evolution. Front. Immunol.10 May 2019
- Alwarawrah, Y., Kiernan, K., MacIver, N.J., P. Changes in Nutritional Status Impact Immune Cell Metabolism and Function. Front Immunol. 16 May 2018.