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Foods and Practices to Boost Your Immune System

February 1, 2022
by TammyS | For Seniors

Research studies have proven that eating certain foods and getting the right amounts of vitamins and antioxidants can help you to stay healthy and ward off illness.   Diet, exercise, age, stress, and other factors also have a big effect on our immune system’s response to disease and illness and all should be considered.

Besides just washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, and staying at home if you are ill, there is a lot that can be done to boost your immune system, which is your body’s first line of defense against disease and/or illness.

  • First and foremost, DO NOT SMOKE.  And, if you do, try your best to quit.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – at least eight, 8-ounce glasses a day.  And drink one of them as soon as you get up in the morning, as your body become dehydrated overnight.
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.  Also includes protein and complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and quinoa.  This is especially important for seniors, as we tend to eat less when we age.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Try to minimize unnecessary stress.
  • Stay up to date with all recommended vaccines.
  • Maintain a healthy and positive attitude.
  • Include probiotics in your diet if your doctor agrees they would benefit you, as robust gut bacteria protect us against infection.  Colorful fruits and vegetables including berries, carrots, and spinach have antioxidants that protect you against oxidative stress, which translates to a stronger immune system.
    • Kombucha (fermented, lightly sweetened black or green tea drink) and kvass (traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented beverage made from rye bread).
    • Unpasteurized sauerkraut and kimchi.
    • Yogurt, kefir (a thick, creamy, and drinkable yogurt), lassi (a drink made from a yogurt or buttermilk) and leban (a liquid or semisolid food made from curdled milk.
    • Tofu, miso, natto (fermented soybeans), shoyu or tamari (types of Japanese soy sauce) and tempeh (an Indonesian dish made from fermented soybeans).
    • Jerusalem artichokes, green bananas or plantains, Jicama root, and asparagus.
    • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that increases the production of white blood cells to fight infections.  Good sources are citrus fruits, papaya, dark green and yellow vegetables, red bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelons.
    • Or take a probiotic supplement (again, if approved by your health care provider).
  • Garlic: Allicin, a compound in garlic, is well-known for its ability to boost the immune system. The most benefit comes from eating one-half of a raw garlic clove daily. If you cannot stomach raw garlic, the next best thing is to roast it or you can mince it up and add it to salads, egg dishes, pasta, etc.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods boost immunity.  Studies have found that older adults who ate kiwi every day for a month had a significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms.  If you eat the fresh fruit, rather than drink the juice of fresh fruit, it is better for you, contains less sugar, and has more fiber.  Good sources of Vitamin C are oranges, broccoli, kiwi, or cantaloupe, etc.
  • Vitamin A is known to keep our skin, vision, mouth, stomach, intestines, and reproductive systems healthy.  Good sources are sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkins, carrots, cantaloupes, and peppers.
  • Zinc is a mineral that helps in wound healing and helps in the development of immune cells.  Good sources are beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.


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