Eat Your Way to Healthy Immune System
The best diet for your body’s defenses is one that’s based on whole, minimally processed food that’s mostly cooked at home. In addition to multiple nutrients and phytochemicals, plant-based foods also provide fiber, which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Fruits and vegetables supply most of the body’s need for vitamins A and C, which are important germ fighters. Produce is also generally rich in antioxidants, which tamp down inflammation and protect immune (and other) cell membranes from damaging oxidation. Nuts and seeds are great sources of crucial vitamins and minerals, fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Beans and whole grains contribute nutrients and contain fiber to help replenish healthy intestinal bacteria. Healthy oils, such as olive, flaxseed, and canola, supply omega-3 fats, which help keep inflammation in check and regulate immune cell activity. A tablespoon or two of an oil-based dressing can also help your body absorb antioxidant carotenoids (which the body converts to vitamin A) and other nutrients in greens and other vegetables.