Immune Boosting Foods and Nutrients to fight off diseases and allergies!
The strength of our Immunity is highly dependent on our diet and lifestyle! What we consume on a daily basis provides us with the required energy and nutrients to nourish the tiny soldiers or antibodies our immune system produces. In this post, we will learn about immune boosting foods and essential nutrients that help to keep the allergies, infections, and sickness away.
Strong Immunity results from a balanced state of Body and Mind – Ayurveda
Per Ayurveda, our immunity is the end result of a healthy mind and body. Both physiological factors and psychological factors are involved in a balanced play of our organs and body functions. This synchronous rhythm leads to a perfect state of interaction with the external environment such that we are able to flourish mentally and physically. When this rhythm is broken, our immunity gets compromised and we fall sick from any external changes such as that of food, temperature, and microbial ecosystem.
Functioning of Our Immune System
Our skin and the mucosal layers on our organs such as nose, mouth, and gut act as the first line of defense against foreign particles. Should the pathogens escape this barrier, our immune cells alert the system to activate a full-blown attack involving:
- Production of specific killer cells to destroy the antigens
- Generation of memory cells to retain information for future and
- ctivation of healing mechanisms
Cell numbers multiply and increase greatly during the sickness period or the immune response mode. This step requires both energy and nutrients that would help the cells to function. That’s why it is important that nutritive foods and ample of rest are provided to the sick at this point.
Natural Foods should be consumed on a daily basis for strong Immunity
Vitamins A to E, Minerals as Zinc and Selenium, Dietary Fiber, and Probiotics are required nutrients that support various functions of the Immune System. For a fast and strong immune response, it is critical that these nutrients are made readily available to the immune system organs for regular maintenance functions and during sickness.
A diverse diet consisting of whole grains, rainbow-colored vegetables, and fruits, fermented and sprouted foods is naturally rich in the essential nutrients. A perfect proportion of Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants in NATURAL foods ensures maximum absorption of nutrients, resulting in a strong immunity. High bioavailability of nutrients may not always be the case for artificially prepared supplements and foods, which often have either very high dosage or unwanted chemicals causing side-effects. Hence, natural immune boosting foods should always be preferred.
List of Essential Nutrients and Immune Boosting Foods
Our top list of Immune Boosting Foods consists of Vitamins that range from A to E, Minerals, Prebiotics, and Probiotics. Let us learn about the role of each nutrient and where you can get them from.
VITAMIN A affects all functions of the immune system: BARRIER COMMUNICATION, ATTACK, and HEALING. Top sources of Vitamin A include red, yellow, and dark green leafy vegetables such as:
- Sweet Potato
- Raw Banana
- Green Leafy Vegetables – Spinach, Amaranth leaves, Moringa Leaves, Curry Leaves, Kale, Turnip Greens, Beetroot Leaves, Fenugreek Leaves
Dietary Tip: One large sized carrot is enough in a day to cover your daily needs of Vitamin A.
Vitamin B6 is another vital Vitamin that affects the speed and strength of our Immunity as well as of metabolism. It can alter the Immune functions related to COMMUNICATION or Alert raising capability, GENERATION of antibodies, and also MEMORY retention related to pathogens. Top sources of Vitamin B6 include:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Dairy – cheese, and yogurt
- Sprouted Foods
- Fermented Foods
Dietary Tip: 1 serving of salmon, or 3 medium-sized potatoes with skin, or 1 cup of beans will cover your daily requirement of Vitamin B6.
VITAMIN C is a powerful antioxidant that affects the strength of Immune functions related to Primary Barrier, Communication, and Production of antibodies. It also affects the healing function related to prevention and cure of OXIDATIVE damage during Immune system response. Top sources of Vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits – Orange, Lime, Grapefruit, Mandarins, and Pomelo
- Berries – Raspberry, Blackberry, Cranberry
- Herbs such as curry leaves and Moringa
- Indian Gooseberry or Amla is the richest plant-based sources of Vitamin C.
Dietary Tip: one piece of Amla, or a Kiwi, or an Orange are enough to cover your daily Vitamin C.
VITAMIN D is critical for the functioning of our ADAPTIVE IMMUNE response. It affects the functions related to the production of specific antibacterial cells that would DESTROY and RETAIN information for future.
One of the best and most effective sources of Vitamin D is right and timely exposure of our body parts to sunlight. Other than that:
- Meat and Seafoods such as salmon, poultry, and beef are good sources.
- Some Mushrooms – Shiitake, Enoki, and Maiitake
- Fermented foods such as Cheese for vegetarians.
Dietary Tip: 15-30 minutes of sunlight exposure to major body parts per day is sufficient for daily Vitamin D requirement.
VITAMIN E affects the speed and growth of Killer Cell production. It also acts as the healing agent against oxidative damage caused during Immune Response. Top sources of Vitamin E include:
- Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios.
- Green leafy vegetables such as Curry leaves, Moringa, and Amaranth, and Kailan are other great sources.
Dietary Tip: Half a cup of sunflower seeds, a handful of almonds, or few sprigs of curry leaves will cover your dietary requirement.
Mineral ZINC is responsible for the strength of BARRIER (first protection layer), antibody PRODUCTION, and MEMORY functions of Immune System.
Top sources of Zinc include:
- Beans, nuts and seeds
- Sprouted foods
- Fermented foods
- Green leafy vegetables.
Dietary Tip: 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds, or pumpkin seeds, or 2 cups of sprouted beans will cover your daily requirement for Zinc.
Mineral SELENIUM is widely used in the semiconductor industry! It is essential for all Immune system functions: BARRIER, antibody PRODUCTION, MEMORY, and HEALING. Selenium though required in small amounts can be availed from:
- Nuts and Seeds
Dietary Tip: One or Two Brazil nuts, half a cup of sunflower seeds, or 4 oysters will cover your daily Selenium requirement.
Our Gut or the digestive system is not only the largest Immune organ but also home to trillions of friendly microbes. PROBIOTICS affect the balance and nature of our gut flora! When operating in a balanced mode, the friendly bacteria help in the absorption and assimilation of nutrients from our food. Rich sources of probiotics include:
- Fermented foods such as pickles, miso, tempeh, yogurt
- Fermented grains and legumes.
While there is no specific limit when it comes to probiotics from food, it is highly recommended that we should include at least one probiotic food source on daily basis in our meals. They replenish the gut flora, hence allowing us to absorb nutrients from the food.