We know the immune system is important for staying healthy, but what exactly is it and what can we do to support it?
The immune system is a complicated network of cells, tissues, and organs in your body and is the first line of defense against disease and infection. A healthy immune system is important at every age. A strong immune system helps protect against infections from bacteria and viruses as well as helps to heal wounds.
Focusing on eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors plays an important role in its function.
KEY NUTRIENTS FOR SUPPORTING
Your Immune System
There are micronutrients in the foods we eat that play a key role in supporting the immune system
An important step you can take for your immunity is to ensure you’re eating a balanced diet in order to fulfill the daily requirements of these micronutrients. Find out how each of them serves your body and which foods you can find them in.
What it does: Works with calcium and phosphorus to make strong bones.
Where to find it: Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources. It can also be found in salmon, fortified milk & eggs.
What it does: Acts as an antioxidant to help protect cells from damage. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron and supports proper immune function.
Where to find it: Citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, kiwifruit, bell peppers and broccoli.
What it does: Helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
Where to find it: Mushrooms, lobster, beef, pork, Swiss cheese and nuts.
What it does: Fights off invading bacteria and viruses while helping widen blood vessels to prevent blood clots.
Where to find it: Almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, pumpkin, and spinach.
What it does: Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. It also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs function properly.
Where to find it: Spinach, carrots, dairy products, liver, and fish.
What it does: Plays an important role in immune function. It’s also needed for enzyme reactions and helps the body use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates.
Where to find it: Shiitakes, bananas, squash, chickpeas, wheatgerm, chicken and tuna.
What it does: Helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA.
Where to find it: Found in salmon, tuna, beef, chicken, eggs, milk, and nutritional yeast.
What it does: Helps to keep tissues healthy by preventing cell damage.
Where to find it: Crimini and portabella mushrooms, grains, Brazil nuts, halibut, ham, beef and turkey.
What it does: Carries oxygen via blood cells throughout the entire body, and is essential in the production of red blood cells.
Where to find it*: Oysters, legumes, potatoes, red meat, seafood, tofu and spinach.
What it does: Needed by the body to make DNA and other genetic material.
Where to find it: Asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kidney beans, edamame and avocado.
What it does: Used by the body to make energy, connective tissues and blood vessels. Helps maintain the nervous and immune systems.
Where to find it: Shiitakes, potatoes, cashews, turkey, spirulina and shellfish.
What it does: Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote health by working to balance good & bad bacteria within the colon.
Where to find it: Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.
HEALTHY LIFESTYLE HACKS FOR
The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against disease and infection.
A healthy and strong immune system helps protect against infections from bacteria and viruses. There are many lifestyle habits you can adopt to support a healthy immune system.
+ Get enough sleep
+ Manage your stress
+ Consume less sodium, saturated fat and added sugars
+ Be physically active, aim to get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity weekly
+ Include a variety of proteins in your weekly meals
+ Choose whole grains more often than refined grains
+ Eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including mushrooms!
HEALTHY LIVING TIPS FROM OUR
Tamara Saslove & Elis Halenko, Registered Dietitians
*Keep in mind that animal-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed, and eating animal-based sources along with plant-based sources can help the absorption of the plant-based iron. Further, adding a source of vitamin C, like lemon juice, can also make plant-based sources of iron easier to absorb.