What foods boost the immune system? The real answer

Congratulations! By asking “What foods boost the immune system?” you’re asking the right question, one that will take you far in your search for a life free of frequent illness.

You’re about to find out what foods boost the immune system, and you’ll be glad to know that they’re everywhere. Scientists have also proven that these foods help you keep illness at bay.

In fact, there’s a whole field of science that seeks to answer this question. It’s called…

Nutritional Immunology

Yes, there are scientists dedicated to finding out how nutrition can impact our immune system.

Scientist

Thanks to these scientists, we can pick up some basic principles for choosing our food to reduce our vulnerability to diseases.

There are also people like you who have been following these principles to great success. Are you ready to learn and follow these principles for a better quality of life? If your answer is yes, be prepared to make the lifestyle changes these people have made!

1. Eat a plant-based diet

Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and mushrooms boost your immune system because they contain phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides that your immune system needs.

Research on many different plant foods have shown how they increase immunity. For example:

  • White button mushrooms increase your levels of an immune substance called immunoglobulin A in your saliva. Immunoglobulin A is actually a type of antibody, and is also present in your gastrointestinal, respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems where it exists in mucus as the first response to invaders.
  • Tomatoes and spinach protect a particular group of white blood cells called lymphocytes against free-radical damage. Depending on their type, lymphocytes mainly either produce antibodies to fight enemies or personally destroy them.
  • The leaves of the purple sweet potato plant increase your levels of immune substances called cytokines that act as messengers in the immune system. The leaves also improve the ability of your natural killer cells to destroy invaders. Natural killer cells are experts at destroying cancer and infected cells! I’d imagine them as assassins, secret agents, or even samurai who seek out the bad guys and kill them.

2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day

Imagine your immune system as the defence force for your body. There are soldiers for different functions, like how an army has soldiers for land, air, and sea.

navy

The navy would use different weapons, and therefore ammunition, from the air force. Likewise, the various parts of the immune system have specific needs for different nutrients.

Each plant food has a unique mix of nutrients that helps your immune system in its own unique way. Eat as many different ones as you can.

For example:

  • Indole-3-carbinol, found in broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables helps to ensure there are enough of a specific group of immune cells involved in protecting and repairing our skin and intestines.
  • Peptides in soybeans help to regulate the levels of white blood cells in your body.
  • Xanthones in mangosteens help to increase your levels of immune cells and substances, including helper T-cells (cells that activate other immune cells to destroy enemies) and cytokines.

So, to get a comprehensive mix of nutrients for your immune system, you really need to eat many different kinds of fruits and vegetables.

3. Eat whole fruits and vegetables

Eat fruits and vegetables whole instead of juicing or eating extracts, vitamins, antioxidants, and other synthetic nutrients.

carrotFruits and vegetables are Nature’s way of packaging nutrients in a safe, balanced way so that they nourish you without side effects. Eating them whole gives you the fiber that juicing doesn’t.

Some people suggest eating vegetables raw as much as possible, because cooking destroys some of their heat-sensitive nutrients. This is correct. Scientists are finding that eating raw fruits and vegetables helps to lower the risk of diseases including bladder cancer.

However, heat also unlocks nutrients for some plant foods. For example, researchers in the U.S. found that beta-carotene is more bioavailable in cooked carrots and spinach. We also absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones.

So, eat raw, but don’t be paranoid about adding cooked plant foods to your diet. Welcome and relish them when the opportunity arises!

What about pills? Let’s say you take vitamin C pills to protect yourself against the flu. You’d have lots of vitamin C without an increase in other nutrients, causing an imbalance in your body. This leads to negative side effects you never wanted in the first place.

If you eat any capsule products, make sure they contain the plant instead of its extract.

There is no special food!

Your immune system is complex and related to all the other parts of your body. It’s part of the team comprising the various systems in your body. It also comprises various parts that work as a team.

Team

Likewise, the fruits and vegetables you eat work as a team to nourish each part of the immune system. There is no single plant food that contains all that your immune system needs.

But there is one diet that comes close–a plant-based diet made up of as many types of fruits and vegetables you can eat. If you have difficulty eating a great variety of fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms every day, check out our recommendations for convenient sources of some of them.

Do these pointers make sense to you? Let us know by dropping a comment!

Sources

  1. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation.
  2. Dietary intake of Agaricus bisporuswhite button mushroom accelerates salivary immunoglobulin A secretion in healthy volunteers.
  3. The function of immunoglobulin A in immunity.
  4. Spinach and tomato consumption increases lymphocyte DNA resistance to oxidative stress but this is not related to cell carotenoid concentrations.
  5. Lymphocytes.
  6. Consumption of purple sweet potato leaves modulates human immune response: T-lymphocyte functions, lytic activity of natural killer cell and antibody production.
  7. Effects of soybean peptide on immune function, brain function, and neurochemistry in healthy volunteers.
  8. Effect of a Mangosteen Dietary Supplement on Human Immune Function: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.
  9. Consumption of Raw Cruciferous Vegetables is Inversely Associated with Bladder Cancer Risk.
  10. Bioavailability of β-Carotene Is Lower in Raw than in Processed Carrots and Spinach in Women.
  11. Absorption of lycopene from single or daily portions of raw and processed tomato.

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