If we are what we eat, then consuming nutritious foods is our surest way to maintain overall health.
With more than 700,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no other event to date has tested the capabilities of the immune system or called upon the importance of nutrition. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, recognizing key immune system-supporting nutrients and learning where to find them are two potent tools in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Lifestyle—diet in particular—directly affects the health of the immune system, and key nutrients play a major role in its proper functioning. Plant-based foods not only contain these key nutrients, but they also inadvertently support the immune system by reducing inflammation, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even fighting cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
The main components of the immune system—cells, tissues, and organs—rely on nutritional choices to function as they should. When a foreign invader—or antigen—is identified, the immune system sends soldiers—antibodies—to fight it off. This is an immune response. The immune system remembers antigens, allowing antibodies to seek and destroy them quickly on the second, third, fourth, or more times around. This is immunity.
As flu season begins, already burdened by a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to support your immune system with curated nutrient-dependent decisions. Nutrition plays a key role in supporting your immune system, but medical professionals agree the best way to ensure a healthy and strong immune system is to pair a nutrient-rich diet with regular doctors visits and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.
Referencing research from scientific journals, including the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, the International Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, and the Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Thistle compiled a list of foods high in key nutrients that support the immune system, and they are highlighted below.