In the midst of the season of colds, flu, and SARS outbreaks, there is a lot of talk and discussion about ways and means to stimulate immunity. However, this approach to the problem has little to do with the scientific view of the issue. Since the immune system performs a protective function, i.e. a large number of links and even more interconnections, not all of which have been studied to date, it is not known which components of this system should be stimulated and to what extent.
Taking into account that the immune system works in close connection with other organ systems in the body, it becomes obvious that the complex factors that determine the overall state of health have a more likely potentiating effect than individual substances (such as dietary supplements or herbs).
Harvard Medical School experts recommend implementing and practicing healthy living strategies, such as quitting smoking, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, maintaining healthy body weight, drinking alcohol only in moderation, regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, good hygiene (frequent hand washing with soap and water, thorough cooking of meat), and minimizing stress. These simple things, once they become habitual, will help to improve blood supply, oxygen and nutrient intake, and the effective removal of waste components of the immune system.
The role of diet in immunity support is enormous. For example, macronutrients are the source of the formation of immunocompetent molecules themselves (antibodies and interferon are proteins) or structural elements of immune cells (synthesis of receptor proteins, DNA formation, formation of the outer layer of branched hydrocarbon molecules – glycocalyx, which plays an important role in contact and recognition). Micronutrients are critical for the realization of functions – the work of enzymes that, for example, ensure cell division or the secretion of antibodies, binding to foreign particles, or their phagocytosis (“eating”).
Useful foods to strengthen the immune system
So, what foods in your diet will help support the immune system and provide it with everything it needs to perform its protective function?
Citrus fruits and red bell peppers, as well as currants and rose hips, will provide the necessary amounts of vitamin C, which, according to scientists, helps fight infections by stimulating the formation of white blood cells.
Since this water-soluble vitamin does not accumulate in the body, it should be consumed in adequate amounts daily, but not too much (up to 2000 mg/day).
Spinach and broccoli, with minimal heat treatment, in addition to vitamin C, will enrich the body with antioxidants that will help neutralize free radicals that are inevitably formed during inflammatory processes that often accompany infections. Vitamin E, which also has powerful antioxidant properties, can be obtained from nuts (especially almonds).
Turmeric, ginger, and green tea contain various substances that suppress the development of inflammation.
Garlic has an antimicrobial effect due to sulfur-containing alkaloids, allicin in particular.
Kiwi, feijoa, and green leafy vegetables contain a lot of folic acids, which is important for the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) in the process of forming new proteins or cell division.
Poultry meat and sunflower seeds are good sources of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is involved in the formation of blood cells, in particular, increases the number of different types of T-lymphocytes that provide cellular immunity and regulate immune processes.
Mushrooms, wheat germ, and oysters contain a lot of zinc, which is important for the normal functioning of the immune system.
Sea fish and other seafood are valuable for their omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These compounds have an anti-inflammatory effect, but in large doses, they have the opposite effect.
Yogurt will help to strengthen the first line of defense – the intestinal microflora. Consumption of live cultures (probiotics) and foods rich in dietary fiber (prebiotics) will ensure the optimal composition of intestinal bacteria and their normal functioning, which is essential for the impermeability of the digestive tract wall and the adequate functioning of immune cells in this area.
So, let’s improve our lifestyle, reconsider our diet and cope with pathogens easier and faster!