Living in a pandemic has many of us thinking about ways we can stay healthy. Luckily, our bodies have a built-in defense mechanism that works hard to keep viruses at bay and us living longer and healthier.
All we have to do is support it by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a wholesome, nutrient-dense diet. Below is a detailed look at our immune system — and how to eat the foods that support it.
What exactly does an immune system do?
Your immune system is basically your front line of defense to the harmful things that enter your body, things that cause disease, illness, viruses and more. Think of the immune system as your body’s army, an intricate web of defense walls and soldiers that protect you from invaders. In more scientific terms, the immune system is a network of stages and pathways that combat against the harmful microbes that you encounter every single day.
There are two kinds of immunity: innate and adaptive.
Innate immunity includes barriers — defenses like skin, stomach acid, mucus, enzymes in sweat and tears and the cells that attack foreign invaders.
Adaptive immunity is a system that learns from an invader, called an antigen, and creates antibodies to destroy it. This form of immunity then remembers those invaders so that it can quickly destroy them if they enter the body again.
What impacts an immune system?
Immune systems are tough cookies, and obviously critical to keeping us going strong day-in and day-out. But there are some things that can cause disruptions in the immune system.
- Autoimmune disorders
Genetics are what makes you YOU, and that’s great. Sometimes, however, genetics can cause hypersensitivity in the immune system, causing antibodies to attack healthy cells instead of antigens. Some examples are type 1 diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Immunodeficiency disorders
This occurs when the body’s immune system is so weakened that it becomes extremely susceptible to illness. While these types of disorders are sometimes genetic, it’s more common for them to be acquired by diseases like AIDS or cancer.
Excessive drinking or smoking, and things like air pollution, can interrupt the body’s natural ability to fight off antigens.
Getting older means your internal systems have to work a bit harder to function properly. That means, without help, systems produce fewer antibodies.
- Excess weight
Carrying around excess weight has been tied to chronic inflammation. While inflammation is a natural part of the immune system’s process, chronic inflammation can wear down the immune system’s effectiveness.
- Poor diet
Like everything in life, the immune system needs proper fuel to function well. If it’s lacking certain nutrients, it will not work at peak performance. Conversely, eating certain nutrient-dense foods may improve immune function.
Mental stress and lack of sleep have also been tied to reduced immunity capabilities.
How to Eat the Foods That Support Immunity
Now that we’ve covered some of the things that can impact immunity, let’s focus on something we can do to improve it: eating a healthy, well-rounded diet. It can’t be stressed enough how important that is when it comes to fighting off viruses and maintaining overall well-being. Eating ultra-processed foods that lack nutrients can not only expand the waistline, but can also decrease the immune system’s effectiveness. That’s why you should be keeping an eye out for those nutrients that are tied with growth of immune cells.
Below are some common foods that contain those nutrients, which include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein. They’re the types of things you should definitely be adding to the shopping list or looking for in a meal delivery service.
- Whole grains
- Apple cider vinegar
The Mediterranean Diet is one way to ensure you get these immune-boosting foods. The diet is high in healthy fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and it could add years to your life. You can learn more about it and some ideas to get started here.
Diet-to-Go also provides delicious, nutrient-dense foods that are prepared by chefs and delivered contact-free right to your door. Meals in one of our four menus are nutritious and calorie-controlled to help you eat right — and lose weight while you’re at it.*
Balance: Calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced, plus heart-healthy — controlled for sodium, carbs, fat and cholesterol.
Balance-Diabetes: Perfect choice for pre-diabetes or diabetes — controls blood sugar naturally, plus heart-healthy — controlled for sodium, carbs, fat and cholesterol. (Even if you’re not diabetic, it can help you lose those last few pounds.)
Keto-Carb30: Carb-restricted plan; replaces carbs with fat and has only 30 net carbs per day, on average. Keto friendly! (Adding fruit, bread, sugar or other carbohydrates is not recommended.)
Vegetarian: Calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced, plus heart-healthy — controlled for sodium, carbs, fat and cholesterol. Protein sources include dairy, eggs, beans and some soy.
They’re super convenient, too. Meals are delivered right to your door anywhere in the continental U.S. You can also substitute any that you don’t like, and you get to work with an entire team of dedicated health professionals to craft the plan that’s perfect for you and your lifestyle.
It’s the perfect win-win for eating right and getting the nutrients you need to keep that immune system going strong.
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.