Food as Medicine

5 Foods For The Immune System

Who likes being sick? You lose your appetite, feel weak and tired, and usually end up falling behind in school or work. No one wants to be sick which is why when flu and cold season comes around, you want to have a good immune system in order to be able to stay healthy.

The immune system is our bodies defense mechanism against infection or disease. When a virus or bacteria enters the body, the immune system is ready to fight. There are two types of responses that our body has which is the innate immune response and the acquired immune response.

We are all born with innate immunity which is our first line of response. The second line of response is acquired immunity which means exactly that, we have to acquire this immunity as we grow. It is important that we have these responses so that we can fight off disease quickly and get back to our healthy lives.

A study found that many foods or food-derived materials improve or enhance immune functions in a wide range of human subjects and that foods with immune-modulating activities affect either innate or acquired immunity

An easy way to do this is through the foods that you eat every day! A more plant-based diet will give you more benefits to the immune system. There are natural vitamins and minerals that are present in plants that can help us combat disease. This does not mean to stop eating meat or dairy but rather to incorporate more plants into your diet. Food has many components that enhance our bodies mechanisms to protect us.

1. Blueberries: Can be added to breakfasts such as oatmeal or a great snack throughout the day.

  • Blueberries contain antioxidants which help to prevent or slow down damage to our cells.
  • The flavonoids which have the antioxidant effects can lower the likeliness of catching a cold and the flu in otherwise healthy people.

2. Broccoli: Can be used in stir-fry’s, salads, or just as a side during lunch and/or dinner.

  • Good source of vitamin C that serves to reduce the duration of the common cold
  • Contains potent antioxidants that can help your cells from becoming damaged

3. Spinach: Can be eaten with your eggs in the morning, put into a smoothie, or in salads and sandwiches.

Many antioxidant effects through the components:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Flavonoids
  • Carotenoids

4. Almonds: A handful as a snack or in your morning cereal.

  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Fiber
  • manganese

5. Kiwifruit, Oranges, or Red Bell Pepper: A great midday snack or component to your lunches

  • All three of these are a great source of vitamin C to help shorten the duration of the common cold

These are 5 foods that I feel are easy to incorporate in an everyday diet. Of course, there are more food that possess the same vitamins and can help your body in the same ways. Find the foods that best work for you and your body to stay healthy!

Written by: Vanessa Marzullo, Dietetic Intern, Hunter College

Revised by: Nazirber De La Cruz, RDN, CDN, CDCES

Nazirber De La Cruz, RDN, CDN, CDCES

Nazirber De La Cruz is a bilingual registered dietitian and nutritionist who believes that healthy and delicious food should be enjoyed at any stage in life. She helps people transform the way they eat and find joy in food through the practice of food and lifestyle medicine.

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