The immune system consists of organs, cells, tissues, and proteins. Together, these carry out bodily processes that fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease.
When the immune system comes into contact with a pathogen, it triggers an immune response. The immune system releases antibodies, which attach to antigens on the pathogens and kill them.
Incorporating specific foods into the diet may strengthen a person’s immune response. Read on to discover 15 foods that boost the immune system.
Which foods boost the immune system?
A healthful, balanced diet plays a vital role in staying well. The following foods may help to boost the immune system:
Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost a person’s immune system. A 2016 study noted that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system.
Researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, than those who did not.
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called theobromine, which may help to boost the immune system by protecting the body’s cells from free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that the body produces when it breaks down food or comes into contact with pollutants. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and may contribute to disease.
Despite its potential benefits, dark chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat, so it is important to eat it in moderation.
Garlic is a common home remedy for the prevention of colds and other illness.
One review looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold.
The group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements. However, the researchers concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether or not garlic can help to prevent colds.
10. Green tea
Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee. Drinking it may also strengthen the immune system.
As with blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of a cold.
Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health.
Initial research suggests that drinking kefir may boost the immune system. According to a 2017 review, various studies have shown that regular consumption of kefir can help with:
- fighting bacteria
- reducing inflammation
- increasing antioxidant activity
The majority of the research that supports this was carried out on animals or in a laboratory. Researchers need to perform additional studies to understand how kefir may prevent disease in humans.
12. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds can make a tasty addition to salads or breakfast bowls. They are a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant.
In the same way as other antioxidants, vitamin E improves immune function. It does this by fighting off free radicals, which can damage cells.
The following lifestyle strategies may make a person’s immune system stronger:
- avoiding smoking
- exercising regularly
- maintaining a healthy weight
- avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation
- getting enough sleep
- minimizing stress
- practicing correct hand-washing and oral hygiene
Enjoying the 15 immune-boosting foods covered in this article may strengthen people’s immune system and improve their ability to fight off infections.
That said, it is important to remember that the immune system is complex. Eating a healthful, balanced diet is just one way to support immune health.
It is also essential to be mindful of the other lifestyle factors that may affect immune system health, such as exercising and not smoking.
Anyone who gets frequent colds or other illnesses and is concerned about their immune system should speak to a doctor.
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