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A healthy immune system protects us by combating external elements such as viruses, bacteria and free radicals from wrecking harm to the body, which can cause infections and illnesses to set in. The immune response outlines the immune system’s ability to produce antibodies to counter these pathogens and eliminate them (1).
Essentially, whole foods that are typically rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are considered ones that can help strengthen the immune system. In this article, we will discuss 8 of such immune bolstering foods that you should consume on a regular basis.
1. Oily Fish
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. This may help in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease) etc (2). Aim to incorporate a lightly fried or baked versions of these oily fish at least 2 to 3 times a week.
Tea, preferably less sugared ones, serve as great sources of antioxidants known as polyphenols and flavonoids (3). Antioxidants help to strengthen the immune system by neutralising cell damaging free radicals in the body (4). Research also showed that Flavonoids have a significant impact in boosting the respiratory tract’s immune system (6). Enjoy freshly brewed green, black or white tea regularly, they not only have thirst quenching and calming properties, the potent antioxidative effects can have beneficial effects to the body too!
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a great snack that is rich in an antioxidant known as theobromine (1). Similar to tea, the strong antioxidative effects prove to be an effective tool against cell ravaging free radicals. Do pick dark chocolate bars that are 70 to 80% cocoa content and avoid milk chocolate versions which are typically high in sugar and fat.
4. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which the body processes to Vitamin A when processed in the body. Vitamin A supports the immune system by creating barriers in the eyes, gut, genitals and lungs which trap infectious agents such as bacteria. It is also involved in the production of white blood cells which help to clear pathogens from the blood (5).
Spinach contains a number of immune boosting essentials such as antioxidants ( flavonoids and carotenoids) and vitamins C and E (1). Lightly stir fry and avoid over cooking as it can leave the vegetable slimy and accentuates its bitter flavour.
Yoghurt (low fat) and preferably Greek yoghurt are high in gut friendly probiotics. These beneficial bacteria help to prevent gut dysbiosis which is the disruption of the balance between good and bad bacteria in the body. This is shown to reduce the immunity of our airways and lungs.
Broccoli is another super vegetable that is packed with Vitamins A & C and also an antioxidant known as glutathione (3).
8. BlueberriesBlueberries contain anthocyanin, which is a type of flavonoid that can help bolster the body’s immune system (1). Blueberries are versatile fruits that can be eaten on its own or as a delicious and convenient toppings for cereals, yoghurt or fruit salads.
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)