Following a balanced nutritious whole food diet is important for the body to get all the nutrients it needs to build and maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is the body’s defence against infectious organisms that invade the body and cause disease. The immune system is made up of special cells, tissues and organs that all work together to protect the body. A strong and functioning immune system recognizes invading bacteria, viruses and parasites and works to eliminate them. A healthy immune system fights these invaders more effectively, in theory reducing the intensity of the illness and allowing a person to get better sooner.
Just as important as good nutrition is for a healthy functioning immune system is the practice of drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, staying active and practicing any form of stress management. There is no one solution or way to achieve good health. Good health comes with living a healthy lifestyle and that involves everything.
Healthy whole foods include fresh fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, plain unsweetened yogurt, whole grains, lean meats, eggs, legumes like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds. Whole foods can help support and promote a healthy immune system because these foods are full of compounds called essential nutrients. Essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, proteins and fats; which are all important in building and sustaining a healthy immune system and a strong and functioning body.
Healthy protein intake is especially important in helping your body to build and maintain strength. Healing body building nutrients found in foods high in protein include vitamins B6 and B12, selenium and zinc. Healthy protein sources include chicken, turkey and other fowl, rabbit, salmon, trout, mackerel, cod, haddock, pollock, whitefish, anchovies, sardines, scallops, legumes like beans and lentils, green peas, quinoa, dairy, eggs, yogurt and all types of nuts and seeds.
Antioxidants help protect cells and DNA against damage caused by oxidants or free radicals. Free radicals are introduced by the environment as well are naturally produced in the body; but when there are too many, they can cause serious damage to the body and contribute to aging and the development of certain diseases. Whole foods that are high in antioxidants include wild blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, sweet cherry, black plum, red and black grapes, artichokes, red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, cilantro and dark leafy greens.
Many herbs and spices are known for having strong antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial fighting properties and are powerful natural healers in combating many viral diseases and infections. Herbs and spices that provide powerful antioxidant protection include garlic, ginger, basil, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, cloves and thyme. Herbs and spices with powerful antiviral, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial properties include cinnamon, cloves, garlic, ginger, cayenne, celery seed, oregano, peppermint and thyme.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help to keep your gut healthy. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and yogurt. When fighting viruses, it is best to avoid dairy products since they increase mucus production and can make nausea and vomiting symptoms worse.
Flavonoids are recognized by the scientific and natural health communities as especially beneficial in boosting immune system function and speeding recovery. Flavonoids are found in garlic, leeks, onions, blueberries, grapes and acai berries; and the soft white skin of citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes.
Another beneficial nutrient is called glutathione, which works as a powerful antioxidant in support of the immune system. Glutathione also promotes the creation of white blood cells, which are an important component to a healthy immune system. It is found in the red pulpy area of the watermelon near the rind and in cruciferous vegetables like kale, bok choy, turnip, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, watercress, radish, arugula, cabbage, mixed salad greens and collard greens.
Soups and purées help the body to absorb essential nutrients from healthy whole foods better. People with weakened immune systems can benefit from nutrient-rich foods. Weakened immune systems can also make people more prone to becoming ill from viruses and infections. When fighting viruses like the cold or flu, warm teas and soups are not just an old folk remedy. Drinking mildly warm liquids can in fact offer an immediate and sustained relief from symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills and tiredness; by offering a soothing anti-inflammatory effect and reducing symptoms of the upper respiratory tract.
Strong scientific evidence now suggests that sugar significantly decreases immune system function. High levels of sugar in the bloodstream has been found to reduce white blood cell production and deplete the body of essential vitamins and nutrients.
It is equally important to avoid highly processed, fried and artificial foods as they offer little nutritional value and can introduce damaging substances into the body. Keeping the immune system strong and healthy is anyone’s best fight against viruses, infections and from the development of serious chronic diseases. Eating fresh whole foods will provide the body with the nourishment it needs to maintain a healthy immune system and to live a long life.
Written by: J. Marshall
Try my Cream of Cauliflower Soup recipe! Cauliflower, carrots and celery are all excellent healing foods for a healthy immune system. Use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk when fighting viruses.
Try my Rainbow Vegetable Stir-Fry with Noodles recipe! All types of vegetables are excellent healing sources for a healthy immune system.
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