The immune system is our armor against attacks from bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites. It offers us two weapons with which we can defend our body- innate immunity, and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is provided by physical barriers like your skin and mucous membranes that act as the first line of defense when the antigens hit your body. 

Bad dietary practices post a major threat to your immune system – but they can be counterattacked with the right nutrition and diet. The food you consume from your childhood prepares you to fight most bacteria and viruses today. While it’s good to start eating healthy from early childhood, it’s never too late to change your diet. Along with taking natural supplements, let’s look at foods that improve your immune system.

On the other hand, adaptive immunity consists of proteins and specialized blood cells that directly fight the infections in your body. This immune system possesses a memory that remembers specific infections and gradually becomes immune to them. 

Without a well-functioning immune system, your health will deteriorate quickly. Certain lifestyle choices like excessive smoking and drinking have a massive impact on the immune system. So does nutrition or your diet

How does nutrition affect the immune system?

You can strengthen your body to fight against viruses and bacteria by exposing it to the right kind of food containing certain key nutrients. Natural killer cell activity is boosted by diets that are based on whole plant foods. These natural killer cells can then effectively fight against viruses. 

Foods that strengthen the immune system

  • Fruits and vegetables: The brighter these are, the more antioxidants they contain. It also means that they are made of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals like carotenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and anthocyanidins. 
  • Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms like Chaga are effective immunity boosters as they contain antioxidants and polysaccharides. 
  • Bitter greens: Arugula and dandelions are great for your liver and provide support to your natural killer cells. 
  • Flax seeds: Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and flax seeds are a great source of these. These can be healthy additions to your daily meals as they are ideal for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E. 

There are other foods, too, that you can consume to strengthen your immune system. Such as magnesium, selenium, and vitamin C. 

Let us look at the foods you must avoid. 

Foods that weaken the immune system

  • Fried foods of any kind are a huge hindrance to building a strong immune system as they cause inflammation.
  • Research has shown that meat can be a source of food-borne bacteria, viruses as well as other toxic chemicals. Few animal products like beef also promote inflammation.
  • Try to avoid highly processed foods like sugars and refined grains. These deplete the helpful nutrients and cause inflammation. 

These foods are not only harmful to your immune system but also to your gut and your overall body. You could be causing a great deal of self-harm by consuming them and increasing the risk of chronic inflammation, further weakening the gut wall. However, plant-based food leads to gut bacteria that are beneficial for the body. 

Foods that improve the immune system

Dark chocolate

When we say dark chocolate, it has to contain at least 80% cocoa. Theobromine, an antioxidant in cocoa, strengthens the immune system by putting up a barrier against free radicals from your cells. 

Free radicals occur when your body is invaded by pollutants or retains some unsavory substance from the breakdown of food. They can be damaging to the cell, thus making your body more vulnerable to diseases. 

As such, dark chocolate is recommended, though you shouldn’t eat more than one slab a day. They reek of high calorie and fat content anyway. 

Additionally, any food with high antioxidant content is recommended. This largely means fruit and vegetables, with more benefits the brighter the colors of the food. 

Garlic

Garlic is often used in home remedies to prevent colds. 

One study revealed the participants who took garlic had half the amount of cold incidents as those who took a placebo. However, more research has to be done before garlic can be considered the magic cure for colds. 

Regardless, the antibiotic allicin content in garlic reduces inflammation and fights bacteria. Whether it reduces your cold or not, it does strengthen your immune system. 

Yogurt

Vitamin D keeps the immune system in good condition. It also helps enhance the pre-existing defences in our bodies. Guess which food has lots of Vitamin D? Yogurt. 

However, you should go for plain yogurt. Flavoured or sugared yogurt brands kind of cancel the benefits out. The best thing to do is mix yogurt with fruit and honey. 

Turmeric

Turmeric has curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is known to boost immunity, has anti-viral properties, and can be used to treat arthritis. 

There is a reason so many countries and cultures have made turmeric a regular part of their cooking. In some cultures, people could be making cake and they would still add the spice due to its quality of killing germs. Spice is also part of alternative medicine in some cultures. 

Red bell pepper

Most fruits are good for immunity. Yet, the sugar in them may cause damage. Unless the food in question is the red bell pepper. 

Red bell peppers are one of the richest sources of Vitamin C, even more than citrus fruits. They’re also stocked up in beta carotene. 

Vitamin C isn’t only good for immunity boost but also for healthy skin. Beta carotene is great for the eye and skin after it is converted to Vitamin A by your body. 

Make sure to stir-fry or roast red bell pepper to get the best of red bell peppers. 

Summing up

What you eat and the nutrients you consume, along with various other factors, can determine the strength of your immune system. A shift from fried and processed foods to whole, plant-based food can create an immense difference in your body so you can lead a long and healthy life.