It is no longer sufficient to know the best foods to boost the immune system without understanding why they do so. Knowing what to eat and what to avoid is important because maintaining a strong immune system is necessary for overall health and well-being.
Although several factors contribute to a healthy immune system, a significant one is diet. Consuming a balanced and nutrient-rich diet can greatly enhance the functioning of the immune system.
Knowing why different foods do so may encourage you to eat more of them!
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Best Foods to Boost the Immune System for Seniors
As you age, your immune system naturally weakens, making seniors more susceptible to infections and illnesses. However, there are several ways you can support your immune system and maintain overall health.
In conjunction with a balanced lifestyle including stress avoidance and management, sufficient sleep and regular exercise, a nutrient-rich diet plays a key role in supporting the proper functioning of the immune system.
Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Seniors should include a variety of vibrant fruits and vegetables in their diet to strengthen their immune system.
These colorful foods are rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins which help protect cells from damage and support normal functioning of the immune system.
Examples include bell peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, berries, broccoli and oranges. Aim for different kinds of fruits and vegetables in daily meals.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and tangerines are packed with vitamin C which stimulates the production of white blood cells, critical for fighting off infections.
Furthermore, this vitamin acts as an antioxidant, protecting the immune cells from damage. Including citrus fruits in your daily diet helps enhance the response of the immune system and overall help to reduce the length of illnesses.
Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are also rich in antioxidants which help protect the immune cells from oxidative stress and boost their activity.
They are also a great source of vitamin C and other essential nutrients, making them a powerful addition to any immune-boosting diet.
Garlic can be a mystery when it comes to classifying it. Is it a herb, spice, or vegetable? The simple answer is that garlic is a root vegetable (Allium sativum) belonging to the onion family (onions, shallots and leeks).
In the strict sense, it is also not wrong to call garlic a spice as it adds flavor to food.
Garlic has been used for centuries primarily for its medicinal properties because of the compound called allicin, which has been shown to have immune-enhancing effects.
In addition, it has antimicrobial properties, helping fight off bacteria and viruses. Therefore adding garlic to your meals can provide a tasty boost to your immune system.
Leafy Green Vegetables Are Some of The Best Foods to Boost the Immune System
Spinach and other leafy green vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for immune function. They contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants that help protect the body against infections.
It is also a rich source of folate, which plays a key role in the manufacture and repair of DNA .
Ginger is widely known for its anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits, but it also has immune-boosting properties. It contains gingerol, a bioactive compound that has antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.
Ginger can help reduce inflammation in the body and strengthen the immune response, aiding in faster recovery from illnesses.
Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family. Its very large flowering head, stalk and small associated leaves are eaten as a vegetable (Wikipedia).
It is eaten either raw or cooked and is very rich in vitamin C and vitamin K. The healthy nutrient found in broccoli are reduced when this vegetable is boiled.
These nutrients are better preserved by steaming, microwaving or stir-frying, so it is best to keep this in mind when cooking. A little known variation of this vegetable (and several other fruits and vegetables) is the freeze dried powdered form.
The bell pepper (also known as paprika, sweet pepper, pepper, mango, or capsicum) is actually the fruit of plants in the Grossum Group of the species Capsicum annuum (Wikipedia). Did you know that?
The plant can be cultivated to produce different colored fruits – red, yellow, orange, green, white, chocolate, candy cane striped, and purple, which is why they are a favorite for salads. While they are fruits in the botanical sense, they are often used as a vegetable ingredient.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system.
Seniors typically experience age-related changes in gut health, so including probiotic-rich foods in your diet can be beneficial. Yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics.
It is preferable that you choose live cultures of plain yogurt because you should steer clear of added sugars. Including yogurt in your diet can help support the immune system by maintaining a healthy gut environment.
Alternatively, seniors may consider taking a probiotic supplement after consulting with their healthcare provider, however try the naturals first, or better still make your own at home. It is easy!.
Protein is necessary for maintaining a healthy immune system because it helps build and repair body tissues. In addition, it provides the necessary amino acids for the production of antibodies, which are critical for fighting infections.
Seniors should aim for a sufficient intake of lean protein sources such as
- beans, and
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and support immune function. Seniors can incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as
- fatty fish,
- chia seeds and
Alternatively, omega-3 supplements may be necessary as advised by a healthcare provider.
Vitamin D plays an all-important role in immune function, bone health, and overall well-being. Because seniors may have reduced sun exposure and a decreased ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, supplementation may be necessary.
However, seniors should consult their healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage of vitamin D supplements.
Conclusion – Best Foods to Boost the Immune System
Now that you better understand the best foods to boost the immune system you can see that people can benefit from these foods which provide their bodies with the necessary nutrients to support their immune system.
Colorful fruits and vegetables, probiotics, protein-rich foods, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D intake all help the immune system function properly.
Of course, diet alone is inadequate. You also need a balanced lifestyle and regular medical check-ups to stay healthy and strengthen your immune system against infections and illnesses.
Schend, J. (2019). 15 Foods That Boost the Immune System. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system
Foods to Boost Your Immune System. (n.d.). Lifespan. https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/foods-boost-your-immune-system
MT. (2022, October 18). 8 Immune-Boosting Foods for Seniors, VANTAGE Aging. VANTAGE Aging. https://vantageaging.org/blog/immune-boosting-foods-for-seniors/
Wikipedia. Garlic. https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Garlic