5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

By Dr. Cassandra Costa, ND

Covid-19 has brought much attention to the immune system.  While wearing a mask and social distancing may be helpful most important is to build immune health.  The winter months are an excellent time to start boosting immunity to give your body the best possible chance of fighting any type of infection. These recommendations from your naturopathic treatment specialists are not intended to cure any disease or make you immune to disease; they are simply nutritional tips that will help to keep you as healthy as possible. Talk with your doctor prior to making any changes to your healthcare regimen.  Most Americans would benefit by increasing their intake of vegetables which are wonderful sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Try a new vegetable or fruit and try some new recipes to add some variety to your meals – perhaps you will develop some delicious new staples to get you through the winter months.

Here are five great immunity-boosting foods, and why they are so helpful:

1. Brazil nuts are a beneficial source of selenium, a trace element that is necessary for optimal immune function and cell growth. Higher selenium levels have been linked to better outcomes for infections, cancer, heart disease, and even mood disorders. Selenium is also a factor in thyroid health. Eating only two brazil nuts per day may be effective at raising selenium levels. These extremely nutrient-packed nuts make for a satisfying snack between meals.

2. Oysters are high in Zinc, which aids in both the adaptive and the innate immune responses. Zinc promotes immune cell maturation and performance—particularly in T cells. Three medium-sized oysters provide a good dose of Zinc. If you aren’t partial to the taste or texture of oysters, some other sources of Zinc are lobster, crab, and shrimp.  Some reputable brands of oysters include: Crown Prince Natural and Ekone (now Taylor Shellfish). Non-animal sources of Zinc include pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds.

3. Eggs are high in Glutamine, which is a terrific source of energy for the cells within the immune system.  Glutamine is an energy source for intestinal cells where 70% of our immune system is located. Vitamin A, also found in eggs, helps to start the body’s antibody response that works to fight off infections. Additionally, Vitamin A plays a role in the function of B and T cells, which are involved in the body’s immune response. If that wasn’t enough eggs are an excellent source of B12, which provides a boost for the natural killer cells, a type of lymphocyte (white blood cells) that help the body fight infections and recover from viruses. One egg delivers 0.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 as well as 6g of protein. Much of the nutrients in an egg are found in the yolk, including B12 and Vitamin A so we recommended consuming the yolk along with the egg white. Non-animal sources of glutamine include dark leafy greens and nuts like almonds and hazelnuts.

4. Salmon is a good source of Vitamin D, along with other fatty fishes such as sardines and mackerel. Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the immune system and are needed to signal an up-regulation in cytokines. Optimal Vitamin D status is critical for a healthy response to infections including COVID-19.  Non-animal sources of Vitamin D include shitake mushrooms and fortified foods. Along with Vitamin D, salmon is a great source of B6, which plays a crucial role in building antibodies, as well as regulating inflammation within the body.

5. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges contain antioxidants, including Vitamin C, that support the immune system. Eating a diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables can help with increasing antioxidant intake. Vitamin C helps the body to create new white blood cells, which assists in warding off infections. If citrus is too acidic for your taste, one-half cup of chopped bell pepper will provide your body with more than 100mg of Vitamin C.

These are just a few recommendations to get you started on a whole-food, nutrient-rich regime. Fuel yourself with vitamin- and nutrient-rich selections to provide sustenance and help fight off infection. And as always, in the spirit of staying healthy, we urge you to practice good hygiene.

For additional advice and recommendations on how to adjust your nutritional choices to reach your personal optimum health and wellness goals contact Prairie Naturopathic Doctors.  We look forward to helping you build health!

December 17, 2020

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