Your immune system's favorite foods

If you asked a handful of people what their favorite meal is, you'd get an array of answers—some nutritious and others definitely not. But if their immune systems could talk, they'd speak in unison about the good stuff: the types of foods that help keep them in "fighting shape" to combat invaders like viruses and bacteria. An array of vitamins and minerals, plant chemicals that lower inflammation in the body, and diet patterns that support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut are all essential for good immune health.

magic of elderberry to fight colds and flu

The goal is to eat a plant-based diet that contains a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruit (fresh or frozen)—in particular, dark, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), berries, citrus fruits, carrots, and winter squashes. Use onions, garlic, ginger, herbs, and spices liberally, too—they're flavor-packed and full of anti-inflammatory, immune-supportive nutrients. Beans, lentils, and whole grains are high in fiber, which is important for a healthy gut, and they're great (and shelf-stable!) sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Put salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds, and extra virgin olive oil on your menu, too. (Like most whole foods, they're multitaskers; for instance, pumpkin seeds, besides being a good source of fat and protein, are high in the mineral zinc, which supports the immune system.) While you're loading up on nutritious, whole foods, limit (and sometimes avoid!) those that can increase inflammation and antagonize the immune system, like added sugar and syrups, simple carbs (like white bread, white rice, and potato chips), red and processed meats, alcohol, and egg yolks and cheese. If this advice sounds familiar, it should. The same diet patterns that help the body fight infection also helps prevent chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Your body is smart like that!

- Cleveland Clinic Wellness


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