Food is the cornerstone of the immune system since it is dependent on an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. The lack of these nutrients suppresses immunity.
The immune system does not depend on any particular food but a proper general diet from homemade food and culinary tours. However, there are particularly relevant micronutrients, including vitamins A, C and D, and the minerals zinc and selenium. Lets take a look at some important nutrients your food should have.
Nutrients relevant to the immune system
The vitamin B lymphocytes and antibody production play a critical role in modulating the immune response , the essential part of regulatory T cells.
- Sources: egg (yolk), spinach, kale, carrots, or sweet potato. Although vegetables are good sources of beta-carotene, our body must convert it into animal vitamin A (retinol) before it can be used. The efficiency of this conversion depends on our genes.
Vitamin C also participates in the immune system, but if you eat enough fruits and vegetables, you should not have any deficiencies.
- Sources: citrus fruits, red fruits, melon, mango, cruciferous, leafy vegetables, pepper, tomato.
Legumes, crucifers, and mushrooms are some examples of foods to strengthen your defenses.
Vitamin D deserves special attention because of its close relationship with both the innate immune system, such as acquired. In this sense, vitamin D deficiencies are associated with a higher risk of infection and autoimmune diseases. In contrast, vitamin D supplementation has been shown to mitigate symptoms of some autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. One of the functions of vitamin D is to control the development and activation of T lymphocytes , essential in acquired immunity. Some studies show the frequent association between vitamin D deficiency and the increased risk of multiple types of cancer.
- Sources: sunlight, cheese, eggs (yolk), mushrooms.
Selenium is necessary to produce selenoproteins, essential agents in the immune and inflammatory response, and enhance the activity of ‘natural killer’ cells.
- Sources: Brazil nuts, pine nuts, egg, whole grains, vegetables, garlic, mushrooms.
Zinc participates in the immune system, and its deficiency increases the susceptibility to different pathogens .
- Sources: nuts, whole grains, legumes, yeast.
Other foods to strengthen your defenses
Beyond nutrients, certain foods have shown benefits in our defenses:
- Broccoli: Certain compounds in broccoli, such as sulforaphane, enhance the immune system.
- Herbs and spices: The garlic, turmeric, and ginger provide compounds that modulate the immune system and inflammation. Also, echinacea, known as the natural antibiotic, has shown enhance mucosal immunity, preventing infections.
- Green tea: through one of its compounds (catechins), it strengthens the immune system.
- Mushrooms: specifically shiitake and reishi are the most studied mushrooms for their immunomodulatory role.