food immunity boosters

8 Foods That Boost Immune System

Immunity plays a major role in protecting your body from harmful substances that could lead to diseases. Find out the common signs of a weak immune system and 8 healthy foods that can boost your immunity.

by Omnia I. Tantawi

What is Immunity?

Immunity is the body’s capability to resist a particular disease by neutralising pathogenic microorganisms or counteracting the effects of its products. In other words, the immune system protects the body from outside invaders. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins that form a protective shield of the body against the harmful viruses, toxins, fungi and bacteria.

There are two main parts of the immune system:

  1. The innate immune system is the first defense system—with which you were born—against the pathogens which try to enter it. It is composed of the skin which becomes a barrier for most of the bacteria, the mucus which traps these pathogens, immune system cells which attack the foreign cells and others.
  2. The second part is the acquired or adaptive immunity. As the name goes, it is the immunity that is developed by the body when it comes in contact with the various bacteria and viruses present in the surroundings. It is regulated by cells and organs in our body like the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.

Immunity plays a major role in the health of a person. It is important to have strong immune system for being able to avoid the risk of developing an illness. If one has a weak immune system, they are at risk for many diseases. Let’s look at the signs of a weak immune system.

Signs of A Weak Immune System

These are a few of signs of a weak immune system. It is important to deal with this issue and try to improve our immune system.

  • Skin infections – As the skin is the first barrier protecting the body against pathogens, a weak immune system can damage it easily. Rashes, inflammations and infections are a few signs of skin damage.
  • Fatigue – People with a weak immune system tend to feel fatigue easily compared to those who have a strong immune system.
  • Frequent cold and other infections – People tend catch a cold or any infection very easily if they have a weak immune system. Their wounds also tend to heal very slowly and they are prone to a lot of infections.
  • Digestive problems – Many scientists believe the root cause of most diseases is a weak digestive system. Signs and symptoms of a weak immune system and digestive symptoms include frequent diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and so on.

Immunity Boosting Foods

Listed below are a few foods which will help us in boosting our immunity to help fight against the various viruses and diseases which are spreading very fast and are very injurious to our health.

Eating enough nutrients as part of a varied diet is required for the health and function of all cells, including immune cells. Diets that are limited in variety and lower in nutrients, such as consisting primarily of ultra-processed foods and lacking in minimally processed foods, can negatively affect a healthy immune system.

  1. Reishi mushrooms 

One of the most important benefits of Reishi mushroom is to boost immunity. Some test tube studies conducted by Peking University Health Science Centre show that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells. These studies have also proven that some forms of these mushrooms can also alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells. Natural killer cells fight infections and cancer in the body. Another study found that reishi can increase the number of other white blood cells (lymphocytes) in those with colorectal cancer.

  1. Citrus fruits 

Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, a nutrient known to help give your immune system a boost and shorten the length and severity of the cold. It encourages your immune system to produce white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infections. Consuming more vitamin C may also help improve skin health and reduce skin ageing. Vitamin C alternatives include red bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, spinach, broccoli and many others.

  1. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called theobromine, which may help to boost the immune system by protecting the body’s cells from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that the body produces when it breaks down food or comes into contact with pollutants. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and may contribute to disease.

  1. Turmeric 

Turmeric is a yellow spice that many people use in cooking. It is also present in some alternative medicines. Consuming turmeric may improve a person’s immune response. This is due to the qualities of curcumin, a compound in turmeric. This bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to a 2017 review, curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

  1. Poultry

Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains nearly one-third of your daily recommended amount of B-6. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatine, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.

  1. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E which is an antioxidant. It helps in improving immune functions by fighting off free radicals which damage the cells. It is also rich in selenium which proved to fight off viral infection in animal studies.  Vitamin E is also found in avocados and leafy vegetables.

  1. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, a type of antioxidant that gives the skin of the potatoes its orange colour. Beta carotene is a source of vitamin A that makes our skin healthy and may even provide some protection against skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

  1. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E

Almonds are another excellent source of vitamin E. They also contain manganese, magnesium, and fibre. When it comes to preventing and fighting off colds, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, this powerful antioxidant is key to a healthy immune system. Adults only need about 15 milligrams of vitamin E each day. A half-cup—which is about 46 whole, shelled almonds—provides around 100 percent of the recommended daily amount.

These are a few foods which can be included in the daily diet as immunity boosters. Combining a healthy diet with proper exercise will ensure a healthy lifestyle. Please consult a doctor or a health expert before making any changes to your lifestyle.

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This article is brought to you by Food-Med.com


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References
  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immunity
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/the-immune-system
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/disorders-of-the-immune-system
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/
  5. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
  6. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-immune-foods
  7. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25571788/
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  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16230843/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20574926/
  12. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system#other-tips
  13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412#which-foods-boost-the-immune-system
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
  15. https://academic.oup.com/biohorizons/article/doi/10.1093/biohorizons/hzs004/220345
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335269/
  17. https://food-med.com/preventive/how-reishi-mushrooms-boost-immune-system/
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About the Writer
Omnia I. Tantawi
Omnia I. Tantawi is an Egyptian Medical Research Scholar and Assistant Lecturer in Biotechnological Sciences. Currently, she works as a Senior Medical Writer in one of the largest digital healthcare companies with the sole goal of spreading the latest breakthroughs in medicine.
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