There are foods that strengthen the immune system and there are the ones that weaken the immune system. The foods that weaken immune system are as mentioned below:
- Sugar: Excessive consumption harms immunity:
Anything beyond 6 tablespoons full per day for women and 9 tablespoons full of sugar for men is generally considered as excess sugar consumption. Excessive sugar consumption is likely to trigger a low-grade inflammation in our bodies as there is an increase in inflammatory proteins namely IL-6 (interleukin-6), TNF-α (tumor necrosis alpha), and CRP (C-reactive protein). Thus, excess sugar consumption adversely affects the cells responsible for keeping our immunity strong and gives way to causing diseases. Limiting consumption of added sugar improves immune function and the overall health of our body.
In diabetics, this is even more relevant. Another way in which excess sugar consumption decreases immunity is by inhibiting the response of immune cells like phagocytes and neutrophils which are responsible for protecting our body from getting infections. Sugar-rich foods also cause harm to the gut barrier function and the gut bacteria. This again leads to reduced immunity.
- Consuming Salty foods:
Eating salty foods or taking excess salt in food as a habit triggers an excessive immune response, overworking the immune system and making it weak. Too much salt causes inflammation of tissues leading to causing of autoimmune diseases. Salt makes changes to the good bacteria present in the gut and inhibits anti-inflammatory response. Keep the salt consumption low if you want a strong immune system.
- Eating more fast food:
Eating fast food or food that is laden with fat, carbohydrate and salt triggers the immune system into action. When we consume this type of food regularly, the immune system gets stressed out leading to low immunity.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol:
Consuming excessive alcohol on a regular basis reduces immunity.
- Eating barbecued, processed, and charred meat:
Saturated fats are one of the causative factors for inflammation. Eating meat that is charred or processed has a high amount of saturated fat. This causes inflammation and leads to reduced immunity in an individual. Thus, it is advisable to avoid eating meat that is charred or processed.
- Readymade or ready to eat foods with additives:
Many ready-to-eat and processed foods are having additives like preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, thickeners, etc. to increase the lifespan of the products and to make these foods taste better and appear attractive to the consumer. These additives cause an adverse impact on our immune cells leading to decreased immunity.
- Consuming Fried foods:
When food is cooked at high temperatures like during the making of fried food, AGEs or advanced glycation end product (AGEs) molecules are produced. These AEGs produced during frying can lead to cell damage and inflammation which causes the immune system to weaken. In addition to this, fried food reduces the action of antioxidant mechanisms in our body causes cell dysfunction, and also adversely affects our GUT bacteria which is one of the vital components of having a strong immunity.
We now know about foods that weaken immune system. Let us also learn about immune boosting diet or foods that enhance the immunity of our bodies. Green and colored vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, etc. all are very useful in boosting the immune function thereby helping in keeping diseases at bay.
Carotenoids and vitamin A are great in boosting immunity and carrots have them both. Carotenoids are one of the strongest antioxidants and Vitamin A is a vitamin that keeps the eyes, stomach, mouth, and respiratory system healthy. Thus, the combined effect of carotenoids and vitamin A in the carrots leads to boosting the immune system.
Spinach not only is good for gut health but it has zinc, vitamin A like powerful antioxidants. Thus, spinach is qualified to be a part of the immune boosting diet.
This is one of the most commonly added items in Indian food. Garlic has sulphur compounds and allicin which are great for a healthy digestive system. A healthy digestive system is needed for a great immune system. Garlic also fights common cold and reduces inflammation.
The high fiber content in chickpeas helps in maintaining our gut health and thus boosts immune system. It is also a rich source of protein which indirectly helps in keeping our immune system healthy.
Citrus foods are rich in one of the most potent antioxidants ‘vitamin C’. We all know the effectiveness of vitamin c in fighting the common cold. Citrus fruits also have many essential minerals and vitamins that support the maintenance of a strong immune system. Lemon, oranges, sweet lime, mandarins, grapefruit, or gooseberry; all help build our immunity.
This nut is rich in a powerful antioxidant; ‘Vitamin E’ and almonds are also rich in fibre, unsaturated fat, and calcium which all support the building of strong immunity of our body.
Button mushrooms are rich in Vitamin D, which is a known immune system booster. The B vitamins and selenium present in the button mushrooms further make it a great immune system-boosting food.
This vegetable is a rich source of antioxidants like Vitamin C, protein, and even calcium. Thus, it ranks amongst immunity-boosting foods. Broccoli reduces inflammation. and aids digestion.
This is one food that is rich in antioxidants, vitamin c, and fiber. It also contains the anti-inflammatory compound betalains. All these ingredients make beetroot an excellent immunity booster.
This fruit is rich in fiber, antioxidants, folate, flavonoids, vitamin C, etc. Thus, pomegranate helps boost immunity in a big way. The fiber content in this fruit helps maintain a healthy digestive system.
They contain capsaicin, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, folate, and other antioxidants. All these nutrients keep the immune system in top condition.
A rich source of protein, iron, and Vitamin A; eggs are great for boosting our immunity. Eggs also have omega-3s which again is useful for our immune system.
A fatty fish, Salmon is considered to be very nutritious food as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other many nutrients. Thus, it qualifies to be an immunity-boosting food.
High level of folate, potassium, and 20 such nutrients make avocados a great food for enhancing the immunity of our body. The high fiber content further helps the immunity by keeping our digestive system healthy.
Turmeric not just adds flavor to food but is a well-known anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant. It thus is a perfect food for good immunity. The medicinal properties of turmeric can be attributed to its curcumin content.
This is another commonly used food item in daily cuisine. Tomatoes are a rich source of Vitamin K, potassium, folate, and vitamin C. All these ingredients help in better immunity of our body.
Other common immunity-boosting foods are Blueberries and Chia Seeds.