Our diet and lifestyle plays an important role in developing as well as strengthening our immune system. Every immune system is different. Some might be functioning effectively while others might need some help due to disturbances in some external or internal factors¹. Which is why, it is important for you to keep your body energized & healthy with the right kind of foods so that the tiny soldiers in your body get the required nourishment they need.
Boosting our immune system has never felt more important than now. A well-balanced diet day after day helps to avoid any nutritional deficiencies and will pay off the results in the long run.
(For a quick list of key takeaways, check towards the end)
Here are 6 key nutrients that will help to strengthen your WBCs and improve the body’s ability to fight against infections!
1. Vitamin C
You probably by now know that Vitamin C is linked to boosting your immunity. Vitamin C helps to boost the production of antibodies and acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help to fight against free radicals in the body and prevent any damage to the immune system.
1–2 servings (1 serving = 100 g) of vitamin C rich foods will help to support good health. Foods such as lemons, oranges, kiwi, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, papaya, strawberry, amla or Indian gooseberry and bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C.
2. Vitamin D
Recent research² studies have shown that regular consumption of vitamin D helps to boost the immune system by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. It has also shown to lessen the risk of developing a viral infection including respiratory tract infections.
Some foods like salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, mushrooms and foods fortified with vitamin D are food sources. It is best to get yourself at least 20 mins natural sunlight in order to amp up your vitamin D levels. However, people with darker skin tones need to spend more time in the sun, preferably 30–35 mins to reap the benefits as melanin decreases the production of vitamin D. In case you are deficient, taking a supplementation under the guidance of your physician or nutritionist would be helpful.
Zinc helps in boosting the production of WBCs in the body. Even a mild zinc deficiency can result in a weak immunity. Studies³ also suggest that zinc helps to control any inflammation in the body by tapping breaks on the immune system.
Whole grains, nuts & seeds, lean meat like chicken, turkey, and beans & legumes are some food sources that are abundant in zinc.
4. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 also supports the production of WBCs in the body. It also helps to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria which help to boost the immune system by warding off harmful pathogens in the intestine. Animal products like chicken, fish, eggs, seafood, and milk & milk products are rich sources of vitamin B12. However, it is advised to take supplementation in case you are deficient.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids help in fighting inflammation in the body and also helps to keep a track of your immunity. Research⁴ has shown that omega -3 fatty acids can help reduce the risks of auto-immune disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Foods like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and oily fishes like salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids and must be consumed at least 2–3 times a week.
Protein is known as bodybuilding food. It is essential for the synthesis of cells as well as antibodies for a better immune function. People who are protein deficient are often more susceptible to infections. Hence it is ideal to include protein-rich foods in your main meals or snacks. Some protein-rich foods include eggs, chicken, fish, nuts & seeds, pulses and legumes, soya chunks, tofu, milk & milk products like curd, buttermilk, cheese, paneer etc.
- Diet and lifestyle factors play an important role in strengthening our immune system.
- A diet rich in whole foods helps prevent any sort of nutritional deficiencies which may result in a weak immunity.
- Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and protein will help to improve the body’s ability to fight against infections over time.
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