What Should You Eat to Help Strengthen Your Immune System?

18 March, 2020 ,

Think about vitamin D

Vitamin D is recognized as being essential for good bone health. What is less known about Vitamin D is that it also has a role to play as a modulator of the immune system. This is why it is recommended to eat foods rich in this vitamin which include: some of the fatty fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish, sardines) and fortified foods.

In the summer, our body is able to produce its own vitamin D thanks to the rays of the sun, but this is not the case in the winter. Small tip: Since it is difficult to reach your vitamin D needs through diet only, it is recommended to take an extra 1000 IU Vitamin D supplement per day during the winter months.

Nurture your gut microbiota

The multitude of bacteria that populate the gut form a natural barrier against the proliferation of infections and help the development and maturation of our immune system. Our microbiota is therefore an excellent ally that is important to nurture by offering it the food that it needs, namely prebiotics which are dietary fibers that selectively promote the growth of good bacteria. Among Prebiotic foods we find: whole grain cereals, legumes, garlic, onions, asparagus, leeks, flaxseed and chia seeds.

It is important to differentiate between prebiotics and probiotics. To understand the difference I invite you to read this article.

Probiotics affect the composition of the gut microbiota and as a result could help strengthen the immune system, especially in the elderly or very young children. It would therefore be interesting to increase your intake of probiotics by regularly consuming yogurt and kefir.

Small tip: It is important to reduce your intake of ultra-processed products and added sugars which are known to deplete the microbiota.

Some more tips:

Reach and maintain your healthy weight

Excessive adiposity, as is the case in obese people, has been shown to be a factor in the imbalance of the immune system. Similarly, a person who is malnourished will have his or her immune system disrupted.

Thus, in order to promote the proper regulation of our immune system, it is important to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it. Click here to find out about your healthy weight. Be careful because BMI alone is not a sufficient enough measure. There are multiple factors to consider such as abdominal adiposity for example. Depending on your situation it may be appropriate to consult with a dietitian.

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Author

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

2 Responses to “What Should You Eat to Help Strengthen Your Immune System?”

March 20, 2020 at 8:40 am, Elke Sengmueller said:

Can you please share your reference that one needs to limit one’s fat intake to 30% to avoid reducing the effectiveness of the immune response? Thank you.

March 20, 2020 at 12:12 pm, Jennifer Morzier said:

Hello Elke,
Thanks for your question. According to the following study: Kelley, DS, and PA Daudu. “Fat intake and immune response.” Progress in food & nutrition science 17.1 (1993), a high fat diet would reduce the effectiveness of your immune response. The 30% of calories from lipids comes from the official Health Canada recommandations https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf

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