Foods to Eat for Immune System Health

Fresh RaspberriesFoods can be good or bad for your overall health and wellness, including immune system health.

Research shows that certain foods benefit the immune system in various ways. One set of foods may reduce inflammation in the body, leading to less wear and tear on all your bodily systems, including your immune system.

Adding anti-inflammatory foods may also help prevent some common diseases, or reduce the more severe symptoms and complications in those who are suffering from certain health issues, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Another set of foods can trigger inflammation. Therefore, avoiding those items in your diet can also provide relief from a range of unpleasant symptoms, including allergic reactions such as eczema, asthma, gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance.

These allergies are obvious examples of how inflammation can affect anyone’s health. Avoiding inflammatory foods has shown clear benefits in relation to heart disease and all forms of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The third set of foods that can support the immune system to prevent disease and enhance health are antioxidants. The normal wear and tear on our bodies every day as a result of metabolism, stress, the environment, unhealthy foods we eat, smoking cigarettes, breathing polluted air indoors or outdoors, and so on, is called oxidative stress.

It probably contributes to accelerated aging of the body.

Antioxidants are so named because they combat oxidative stress, thus decreasing the wear and tear on the body and reducing the effects of aging. Some antioxidants are so powerful, they have even been associated with cancer prevention.

Eating more anti-inflammatory foods while cutting back on inflammatory ones, and adding delicious sources of antioxidants to your diet, is the best way to improve your immune system, reduce the effects of aging, and delay or prevent various diseases.

What are the best foods to eat, which are the best to avoid, and which foods are the best sources of antioxidants?

Here is a list of the top 10 choices for each category below. Always consult your own healthcare providers to make sure that you tolerate what you are considering.

Remember that some highly allergic people have serious, even life-threatening reactions to fish and shellfish, specific tree nuts, peanuts and related substances.

So, just because something “should” be good for you for its nutritional value, it may be unhealthy or dangerous for you as an individual.

Top 10 Foods to Eat to Cut Down Inflammation

1-Salmon and Other Fatty Fish with Omega-3s
2-Probiotics, found in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir
3-Olive Oil
4-Sour Cherries
5-Walnuts and other tree nuts
9-Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous (pronounced CREW-sif-er-us) vegetables like broccoli and bok choy (Chinese cabbage)
10-Berries such as blueberries

Top 10 Foods to Cut Down and/or Eliminate to Reduce Inflammation

3-Standard Cooking Oils
4-Trans fats
5-Red Meat
6-Processed Meats/cold Cuts
7-Refined Carbohydrates
8-Artificial Sweeteners and Flavorings, such as aspartame and saccharin; Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
10-Dairy Products


Top 10 Foods that Provide the Highest Amounts of Antioxidants

1-Small red beans
2-Blueberries, wild
3-Red kidney beans
4-Pinto beans
5-Blueberries, cultivated

It may seem overwhelming at first to make changes to your diet, especially if many of your favorites are on the foods to avoid list. Fortunately, a little effort can go a long way towards improving your immune system if you make healthy substitutions.

For example, if you love sweet, sugary foods, use more fruit to curb your cravings.

Choose blueberries and raspberries – eat them fresh or cooked as part of a healthy dessert. Buy the berries frozen when they are on sale in the supermarket and eat them frozen in smoothies and even to replace ice cream or other more unhealthy desserts.

We add fresh berries to many different recipes, from fruit salad to interesting sauces and rice pilafs.

If you are a meat eater, eating fish for 2 meals a week and beans such as the antioxidant-rich red kidney beans or Salmon Mealpintos is easy and tasty too. Enjoy discovering new recipes and exploring cuisines from around the world.

For example, these beans are perfect for Mexican or Tex-Mex cookery.

Many of the foods on the anti-inflammatory list are ideal for Chinese or Indian recipes (and remember that Turmeric is a great antioxidant spice for your meals).

Here are some resources on this topic to help you improve your immune system function, and discover how you can eat better than ever while fighting disease:

Just remember that you have more control over your health and your quality of life as you age than you might have thought. Foods can make a huge difference in immune system health and your overall wellness.

About the Author Kris Greenway

Natural Wellness Zone is a blog discussion of approaches to self care using complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies that make sense to help people dealing with a range of health challenges. Kris Greenway is a fellow patient who has researched and found more natural ways to deal with a long list of health problems, including type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, leaky gut, and arthritis. She includes information and updates from expert physicians to educate people about their natural wellness options.