No food is capable of strengthening the immune system. The reality is that we can only promote normality through diet.
We’ve all heard yes, but are there really foods that help strengthen the immune system? Or is this a common myth that has lasted for generations? Can diet prevent diseases caused by pathogens from affecting us?
FOOD TO STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
To protect against infection by some pathogens, we can count on the immune system, a system of biological structures and processes that allows us to detect a huge variety of agents, from viruses to parasites.
Several factors contribute to the proper functioning of this system, one of them being nutritional status, the negative impact of which can lead to poor functioning of defenses.
In this context, several foods have been identified as a means of strengthening the immune system and, therefore, helping to increase immunity against certain pathogens.
The reality is that, in plain English, food cannot increase or strengthen the immune system, but it can help it function well – that is, normally, as we want.
And what foods and strategies are there that can contribute to the proper functioning of the immune system? Let’s understand this topic better.
NUTRIENTS FOR THE NORMAL FUNCTIONING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Studies indicate that these fatty acids are potent immune response modulators, participating in the activation of innate and acquired immunity cells through a variety of mechanisms.
In addition to the previous properties, omega-3s from the diet also attenuate inflammatory activity, one example being the role of long-term consumption of omega-3s in the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a osteoarticular disease caused by changes in immunity.
Foods with interesting amounts of omega-3
- Fatty fish (sardines, salmon, herring, oysters, anchovies, mackerel, caviar)
- Cod liver oil
- Flax and chia seeds
Beta-carotene is one of the three naturally present carotenoids that is a precursor to vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that, in addition to its proven role in protecting against damage caused by radiation to the skin, is also fundamental for the correct functioning of the immune system.
Several studies indicate that in addition to its anti-inflammatory role, vitamin A is essential in regenerating the mucosal barrier after infection, promoting white blood cell function and cell-mediated immunity.
Foods rich in beta-carotene
- Sweet potato
- Red and yellow pepper
It can also be found in spices
- Cayenne pepper
- Parsley, among others
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
The role of these two vitamins in immunity is already well established, with an antioxidant effect already defined.
On the one hand, vitamin E is important for the immune system as it prevents the oxidation of vitamin A, preserving its function.
Vitamin C is important in maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane.
Foods that contain vitamin C
- red and yellow pepper
- black currant
- Brussels sprouts
The foods with the highest vitamin E content are wheat germ, sunflower, almond and hazelnut oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Nuts, peanuts, avocado, Atlantic salmon, trout, turnip greens, mango and Kiwi.
Probiotics can not only contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system but also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine.
Furthermore, some probiotics appear to increase the production of antibodies and specific immunity cells.
A study carried out on 570 children concluded that taking the Lactobacillus GG strain contributed to reducing the frequency and severity of respiratory infections by 17%. On the other hand, the Lactobacillus crispate strain appears to contribute to reducing the risk of urinary infections in women by 50%.
Foods rich in probiotics
- Traditional butter
Although the classic function of vitamin D is the regulation of bone metabolism, its importance for the normal functioning of the immune system is also known.
Since most immune system cells have receptors for this vitamin, its impact on both the innate and adaptive immune responses cannot be ignored.
This vitamin participates in the activation and multiplication of B and T cells, important in combating specific agents, and contributes to reducing the inflammatory response.
Although there are foods with an interesting vitamin D content, sun exposure is essential to reach the recommended daily dose. Although vitamin D supplementation is widespread, the truth is that we can reach the necessary values with an exposure of 15 to 20 minutes.
This exposure should be done outside of peak heat hours, as its absorption is only possible if you have not applied sunscreen.
Sources of vitamin D
- cod liver oil
- egg yolk
- fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- canned tuna
- liver steak
Zinc is an essential micronutrient for maintaining the stability of the immune system. Its deficiency negatively impacts the development and functioning of immune cells.
Its deficiency, in developed countries, is more evident in older people, a factor that may contribute to a poorer immune response in this population.
Foods with high zinc content
- Red meat
- fatty fruits
- whole grains
- Dark chocolate.
OTHER WAYS TO HELP THE NORMAL FUNCTIONING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Other daily strategies can be adopted for prevention, namely:
- Maintain good hygiene practices;
- Do not smoke;
- Practice physical exercise regularly;
- Maintain an adequate weight;
- Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages or drink in moderation;
- Ensure 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night;
- Minimize stress.