The body relies on its immune system to fight invaders called antigens, which include bacteria, viruses and allergens. White blood cells attack these harmful organisms, allowing the body to maintain its health. Proper nutrition is key when it comes to maintaining your immune system. Essential vitamins and minerals increase the production and strength of white blood cells, thereby giving your immune system the power it needs to fight infection. Fortify your diet with foods that contain these vitamins and minerals to boost your body’s defense against unwelcome invaders.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, which increases antibody and white blood cell production. Eat at least six servings of fruits and vegetables a day to ensure adequate vitamin C intake. Guava, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe and citrus are all rich in vitamin C.
Vegetables that contain high amounts of vitamin C include peppers of all kinds, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
Carotenoids are also necessary for optimal functioning of the immune system. Beta carotene, one of the most well-known carotenoids, boosts the production of infection-fighting cells and T-cells. Fruits and vegetables high in beta carotene include carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangoes and apricots. Other carotenoids include lutein (found in dark green vegetables) and lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit and guava.
Nuts and Seeds
Vitamin E aids in the production of B-cells, white blood cells which hunt for and destroy germs and cancer cells. Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils contain large quantities of vitamin E; leafy greens are also a good source. Eat foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, spinach and broccoli to get more vitamin E.
Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of white blood cells. Without adequate amounts of protein, the body cannot produce enough white blood cells to fight off antigens. High quantities of protein are found in lean meats, such as seafood, fish, and skinless poultry. Eggs, beans, lentils and soy are also good sources of protein.
Fish and Flax Oil
Fatty fish, including tuna and salmon, and flax oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are a beneficial kind of fat that boost the immune system by increase the germ-eating activity of white blood cells. Flax oil can be added to fruit smoothies.
Dark Meat and Shellfish
Dark meat and shellfish are high in zinc. Zinc helps the body produce more white blood cells and makes existing white blood cells more aggressive. Foods like dark turkey meat, beef, oysters and crab contain high amounts of zinc. You can also get zinc from beans and fortified cereals.
Ward off invaders and add some kick to your diet with garlic. A member of the onion family, garlic stimulates the production of white blood cells and antibodies.