They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away and there is some truth to that. Apples are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system and helps fight against chronic disease, and potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of stroke.
But a diet that supports a healthy immune system is made up of more than just individual pieces of produce. To ensure you’re getting the nutrients needed to prevent disease and protect against seasonal illnesses like the cold and flu, you need to commit to a well-rounded diet rich in the following foods, and adopt healthy habits as well.
Become Besties With Fruits And Veggies
“Consuming fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can help protect your overall cellular function,” which helps your body metabolize nutrients, says Jayne Williams, certified nutritional coach. “We need to support our cells by adding in Vitamins like C, E, D and K.”
This means eating more of the following foods:
- Vitamin C-rich produce like broccoli, cantaloupe, strawberries, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, papaya, peppers of all colors, sweet potato, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin E-rich foods like sunflower seeds, nuts like almonds and peanuts, avocados, spinach, Swiss chard, and butternut squash.
- Vitamin D-rich foods like Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, fortified dairy and cereals, and cheese.
- Vitamin K-rich foods like dark, leafy greens, pork chops, and chicken.
Focus on More Fiber, Less Sugar
“Fiber protects your cells and feeds the good bacteria in your gut,” says Williams. This, again, helps with nutrient absorption, with the bonus of better digestion. “Including fiber-rich foods like greens, vegetables, and fruits will help promote cellular function, digestive function, and lower inflammatory response in the body. Think in color. The more color you add into your diet, the more diverse the vitamins and nutrients you will be getting.”
Certain grains also help boost your fiber intake. They include bulgur wheat, brown rice, wild rice, and barley, and breads like seven-grain, dark rye, whole wheat, and pumpernickel. Beans are also very high in fiber.
Remember to Stay Hydrated
“Water is a key immunity-boosting nutrient, says acupuncturist Elizabeth Martin. “Our bodies are made mostly of water, so drinking an adequate amount will keep your cells plump and functioning at optimum capacity. Water is vital to kidney function which works closely with other organs to take care of important bodily functions. Additionally, without sufficient water, the body runs into detoxification issues, leading to toxicity, inflammation, and a whole host of health imbalances.”
If you hate chugging plain old tap water, try adding some flavoring such as squeezed lemon or lime, or let some sliced cucumber and mint steep in a pitcher overnight.
Finally, you may want to look into supplements of you feel you aren’t getting enough nutrients from whole foods. “It’s ok to take a high-quality nutritional supplement,” says Williams. “Just make sure you do your homework on the brand you choose and only take what you need. Multi-vitamins, Vitamin D, and probiotics are all excellent choices around supporting your immune system.” And always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement.