Foods That Support Your Immune System
By McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN Founder of Nutrition Stripped and creator of The Method
Registered Dietician, founder of Nutrition Stripped and leading wellness coach in mindful nutrition, McKel Kooienga believes that creating healthy eating habits is one of the most important skills you can give yourself for your overall well-being.
Eating a diet rich in whole foods is the most important thing to support a healthy immune system. Health is a daily practice and taking those small actions every single day to nourish your body, mind, and spirit are so key to your health and longevity.
That’s why we start with nutrition and making sure our bodies are given the best opportunity to function optimally because we’re feeding it the nutrients it needs to not just survive but to thrive. Incorporate these foods into your diet year-round to give your immune system the support it needs to function its best.
- Spirulina is a blue-green algae and is rich in plant-based protein! Protein is important for rebuilding lean body mass, keeping yourself full and satiated, and amino acids play a role in thousands of cellular functions in the body. In addition, eating enough protein specifically supports our immune health because our body needs protein to create antibodies, immune system cells which help our bodies repair and build tissue and fight viral and bacterial infections. Some studies show eating a plant-based diet has lower markers of inflammation.
- Pineapple falls into the category of Starchy/Sugary Carbohydrates. Studies have shown a diet rich in refined sugars (i.e. highly processed carbohydrates and sugars) can suppress our immune system so now is the time to check in with what types of carbohydrates you’re consuming. Opt for whole food starchy carbohydrates that also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals along with potential additional macronutrients versus refined carbohydrates which are not as nutrient-dense. Added bonus, pineapple is a great source of vitamin C, another important nutrient for supporting the immune system.
- Greens like dark leafy greens, spinach, and wheatgrass all are considered non-starchy carbohydrates. These are your fiber-rich veggies such as dark leafy greens, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce, artichokes, etc. These foods represent foods that contain a good amount of fiber which is essential in supporting our gut microbiota, which in turn supports our immune system. Eat the rainbow when you’re considering this food group! The more color the better and try to consume a few cups or servings per meal, ideally as many vegetables as you can get into your diet is going to ensure you’re eating enough fiber, obtaining antioxidants, phytonutrients, and key vitamins and minerals that support overall immune health.
Rose Hips, Cherries, and Acai Berry
- These red-colored foods are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most popular, marketed, and well-known vitamins with the cold and flu season approaching us. Vitamin C is one of many powerful antioxidants found within food sources and in supplements. It’s been used in clinical practice ranging from preventing (reducing the duration and severity) the common cold, flu, repairing oxidative stress and cell damage in smokers/ex-smokers, decreasing the risk and progression of cataracts, reducing certain types of cancer, reducing high blood pressure, enhancing non-heme iron, and nail health.
- Flax seeds are a great source of fiber, especially soluble fiber. Fiber is so important to any diet as it balances cholesterol levels in the blood, regulates bowel movements, regulates blood sugar levels, regulates your satiety levels, lowers the risk of certain types of cancer, reduces the risk of diabetes, supports a diverse gut microbiota which supports immune health, and aids in digestion overall.
Probiotic Rich Foods
- Probiotics have the potential to improve your digestive, cardiovascular, immune, and mental health as well as your metabolism and skin. Having a good balance of gut microbiota (i.e. good bacteria in your digestive tract) is key for immune health and general wellbeing. It’s important to note, that along with probiotics we should also talk about prebiotics which feed probiotics. Examples of prebiotics are a common food in food sources you may already be enjoying such as garlic, bananas, artichokes, onions, and oatmeal.
If you’re able to add these foods to your diet daily or weekly along with other lifestyle factors such as getting enough sleep, rest, movement, and stress management, these practices can support immune health. If you’re on the go and need a boost, try the protein and greens powder, Green Superfood® Original by Amazing Grass® which contains all of these incredible immune-supportive foods listed above in an easy to scoop and sip style. You can find this product at your local Mother's.
+These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.