What to eat to support immunity
Updated: Jun 25
We are going through times of uncertainty and fear in relation to global and personal health. One of the most empowering things you can do at times when so much feels out of your control is to manage your health by taking charge of your diet.
Your immune system is the most powerful weapon you have against disease. Strong immunity means that the body is better able to fight off viruses and germs. Here are my top nutrition and lifestyle tips for a healthy immune system.
Eat real food
To function at optimally, your immune system requires an abundance of nutrients. And a plenty of them. This is why a nutrient-rich whole foods diet is so important when it comes to your immune health. This means eating healthy, pasture-raised animal proteins, wild fish, nuts, seeds, and an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables.
Eat a rainbow fruit and vegetables
Aim for 8-10 servings per day (one serving is 1/2 cup)
I can’t emphasize the importance of fruit and veg enough. These foods are rich in vitamins (such as vitamin C & A) and minerals (such as magnesium and zinc) that are really helpful for boosting the immune system. The components of fruit and vegetables that are brightly coloured (scientifically known as phytonutrients) have anti-inflammatory properties and the different colours contain different antioxidants that we know support healthy immunity.
Cook with herbs and spices
Ginger, Garlic, Green Tea, Raw Cacao, Rosemary, Oregano, Turmeric, Thyme
These are fantastic antimicrobial foods and many have anti-viral properties too. Add in herbs and spices liberally to soups, stews, salads, stir fries and so on. Drinking green tea is a great option to boost your antioxidant intake, and I am throwing raw cacao into all my protein bliss balls and smoothies at the moment too.
Eat plenty of protein rich foods.
Lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, legumes, nuts and seeds, soya
Protein is a critical raw material for the immune system, so it’s really important that we eat enough. Aim for approximately 1g/kg of body weight per day.
Say no to sugar
White Bread, White Pasta, White Rice, Cakes, Biscuits, Chocolate
Studies show that sugar and refined carbs can suppress the immune system for hours after you have eaten them. So limiting these foods will help your immune system to function better.Replace white carbs (rice, pasta, bread etc) with wholegrain varieties and switch up sugary snacks for protein bliss balls, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables.
If you fancy something sweet then stewed apples or pears are a good option – and they go really well with natural yogurt or kefir. Try cooking them with just cinnamon to sweeten initially but you can always add a little natural sugar eg manuka honey/maple syrup if the flavour is too tart, post cooking.
Eat foods that are rich in essential fats
Oily Fish, Flaxseed, Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Avocado, Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds
Choose these foods which are rich in essential fats and produce anti-inflammatory compounds in the body which help to support the immune system. Focus on lean sources of protein such as white meat, fish, nuts and seeds, legumes and use these to reduce the amount of red meat and dairy foods which can have an inflammatory effect on the immune system. Try to avoid processed foods such as margarine and deep fried foods.
Enjoy happy tummy foods
80% of the body's immune system is located in the gut so gut health is really important when thinking about immune health.
· Eat fermented foods that contain live bacteria (Probiotic foods)
Natural Yogurt, Miso, Sauerkraut, Kimichi, Tofu, Tempeh, Kefir
The right balance of gut bacteria is essential to a healthy immune system. Avoid sugar-laden yogurts, as sugar encourages the growth of bad bacteria, which can weaken the immune system over time.
· Eat foods that feed your microbiome (your healthy gut microbe population)
Onions, Leeks, Garlic, Asparagus, bananas, honey, legumes, peas
The fibre contain in plant foods have been shown to nourish and stimulate the growth of our healthy gut bacteria population, supporting the balance of bacteria in our guts and thus immunity.
Drink more water
Staying well-hydrated is important for health in general. When it comes to bolstering your defences, water is a miracle worker. It flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients.
Get outside to maximise your Sunshine vitamin (Vitamin D)
Why? As difficult as this is to achieve sometimes (particularly in winter and spring), spending sufficient time in sunlight is a vital immune booster. Vitamin D is made by your skin absorbing sunlight, so planning an hour or two outside during daylight hours is a good reason to leave work early or take your children to the park when you’d rather sleep late. Even sitting outside while you have your morning cuppa is a good thing right now. Expose as much of your bare skin to the sun as possible, and don’t wear sunscreen during that time either as it inhibits the process.
There are a few foods such as oily fish and egg yolks that contain vitamin D. But your best natural source is the sun.
Get enough sleep
Why? When we our sleep our body works on restoration and healing. Lack of sleep impacts the immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
Take regular exercise
Why? Your lymphatic system, contains a network of tissues and organs that help your body get rid of toxins and waste. Its main role is to transport a fluid called lymph around the body, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Unlike the blood, which moves around thanks to your heart pumping, there’s no automatic way of moving lymph about. The only way to shift the stuff from A to B is by moving yourself. Aim for mild to moderate exercise for around 30-45 minutes.
If you’d like to talk further about how to support your immune system or another aspect of your health, book a health and energy transformation call HERE