Your immune system is the foundation
of good health and fighting off disease. While there is no one thing you can do
to boost the immune system your lifestyle does make an impact. Research is
still emerging for the full effects of lifestyle on the immune system,
including your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Including general
healthy-living strategies is a good way to start giving your immune system the
upper hand. You need a variety of foods that provide a natural abundance of
vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (compounds found in plants that have
disease-fighting properties); all those nutrients work together to keep your
immune functions running smoothly.
Listed below are foods that can help
build up or “boost” your immune system and foods that break it down or “bust”
* Phytochemicals are non-nutritive
plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties. Plants
produce these chemicals to protect themselves but recent research demonstrate
that they can also protect humans against diseases. Some of the well-known
phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy and flavanoids in
* Omega-3 Fats are found in flaxseed
oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fish eggs, fatty fish, seafood, soybeans, and
* Antioxidants are substances that
may prevent or delay certain types of cell damage. Antioxidants are found in
many foods, including fruits and vegetables. An example antioxidant is
beta-carotene, which is found in any yellow/orange and green leafy
* Probiotics are the
“good” bacteria naturally found in your gut, also known as live
cultures in foods. These live cultures help change or repopulate intestinal
bacteria to balance gut flora. This functional component may boost immunity and
overall health, especially GI health. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible
food components that are linked to promoting growth of probiotics.
* Vitamin and minerals are essential
nutrients which perform hundreds of functions in your body. They are found in a
variety of foods including fruits, vegetable, and whole grains.
* Added sugar are sugars and syrups
put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table. Common
sources of added sugars include pop, sports drinks, desserts, cereals, etc.
* Refined starches have been milled,
a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer
texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron,
and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain products are white flour,
de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.
* Trans fat is naturally found in
small amounts in some animal products such as meat, whole milk, and milk
products. Trans fat can also be made from vegetable oils through a process call
hydrogenation. Check the food label to find out if trans fat is in your food
choices. Trans fat can often be found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings,
stick margarines, and microwave popcorn.
* Saturated fats are most often found
in animal products such as beef, pork, and chicken. Leaner animal products,
such as chicken breast or pork loin, often have less saturated fat. Foods that
contain more saturated fat are usually solid at room temperature and are
sometimes called “solid” fat.
If you notice your diet is coming
more from the Immune Busting section your immune system may be taking a hit,
now might be the time to consider making nutritional changes. Even one
change is for the better, and will start you on the right track of improving
DID YOU KNOW?
UPHS-M has Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) on staff who work in all capacities.
* Inpatient RDNs who work with our inpatients for all nutritionally related issues.
* Outpatient RDNs who work in the pediatric
clinics (Pediatric Diabetes, Blue Prints 4 Health, Multi-Handicapped,
Cardiology, Neuromuscular, and Hemophilia), the Bariatric and Metabolic
Institute, and who see outpatients for a variety of nutrition-related issues.
Did you know that UPHS-M insurance covers 12 nutrition counseling visits per
year for certain diagnoses?
* Outpatient diabetes
* Food and Nutrition Services. In
celebration of National Nutrition Month, Food and Nutrition Services is
offering a basket give-away drawing in the cafeteria, the week of March
If you have any questions or for
more information, please feel free to call us at (906) 225-3221.
References: How to boost your immune system: Helpful ways to strengthen your immune system and fight off disease. Harvard Health Publishing. 2018