Foods to Boost Immune SystemThe answer is a resounding yes!  A strong immune system is the body’s first defense for fighting bacteria and viruses.  The immune system protects the body from illnesses and infections.  Although the immune system is complex, there are some simple lifestyle choices people can make to boost their immune system for better health.

Diet– A balanced diet is beneficial to the immune system.  Supplements can be helpful, but our bodies can get the nutrients and vitamins needed from the foods we eat.  Foods rich in antioxidants are known to boost the immune system.  Examples include many dark colored fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, raspberries, kale, spinach, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.  Many herbs and spices are good sources of antioxidants and can be used as seasonings.  These include oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.  Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids enrich the immune system.  Excellent sources include oily fish such as tuna and salmon.  Some non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Sleep– Quality sleep is an important immune system booster.  The amount of sleep we need depends on the person’s age.  Average adults need 7 to 9 hours sleep each day.  Preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep daily.  Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep daily.  The body produces proteins called cytokines when we sleep.  Cytokines target infection and inflammation.  The National Sleep Foundation cites chronic sleep deprivation as a factor in decreased immune system response.

Stress– Chronic stress and anxiety can depress the immune system, making it less effective.  While we may not be able to eliminate all stress, there are some ways to help manage it.  Slowing down, reducing our commitments, meditating, exercising, reducing caffeine intake, and spending more time relaxing with family and friends are ways to alleviate stress.

Additional good health practices that can help boost the immune system are thorough hand washing, regular exercise, and getting an annual flu shot.  Talk to your health care professional for other ways to keep your immune system working as it should.