An expert breaks down the best sources for immune health
Poor nutrition can influence the body’s performance and affect the immune system. But it’s difficult to say whether specific healthy foods can boost immunity, according to registered dietitian Brandi Thompson, of the Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.
Phytochemicals and antioxidants can help to diminish free radicals produced by stress, environment and more. Deficiencies in some vitamins and minerals affect the immune system, according to Thompson. So it makes sense to ensure you’re getting those vitamins and minerals with a nutritious diet.
- Best sources of zinc include vegetables, legumes, nuts, yogurt, whole grains and beef.
- Best sources of selenium are nuts, tuna, beef and chicken, tofu, shrimp and mushrooms.
- Best sources of iron are beef, chicken, turkey and fish.
- Best sources of copper are leafy greens, nuts, seeds and mushrooms.
- Best sources of vitamins A, C and E are fruits and vegetables.
- Best sources of B6 are eggs, fish, beef, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, beans, bananas, avocadoes and beans.
- Best sources of folic acid are leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, asparagus, nuts, papaya, banana and avocado.
Probiotics can help to feed the good bacteria and support a healthy immune system, according to Thompson. “Foods rich in probiotics include those that are fermented and or have probiotics added,” she says. These foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, some pickles, sauerkraut and kimchee. “Incorporate plain yogurt with fresh berries into your breakfast, pickles or sauerkraut on your grass-fed burgers, and 8 ounces of kombucha with your nighttime meal,” she says.
Plant-based proteins include nut butters, nuts, soy, seeds and beans. Animal-based protein sources include fish, chicken, beef, pork, eggs and dairy products. Reap the benefits of fruits and veggies. “Berries, those tiny sweet red, purple and blue fruits, do pack more of a concentrated punch when it comes to the antioxidants that help boost the immune system. And sprinkle in the orange, yellow and green fruits that each add their piece of the diverse phytochemicals that support the immune system,” Thompson says.
Vegetables are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. “Add fresh greens to a smoothie or eat them raw in a salad. Roast peppers and fill them with quinoa and lentils for a meatless meal, or grill zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant to serve as a side dish with hummus,” Thompson suggests.