Which Foods Best Boost Your Immune System?
By Judy Muller
Nutrition experts say much of what our bodies need to fight off
infection can be found in foods.
In its latest edition, Prevention magazine says a poor diet is a top factor
in making us susceptible to illness. It then lists the top five foods that give
your body the best immunity: beef, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, tea and yogurt.
While an all-around healthy diet is crucial, these particular foods help us best
flex our immunity muscles, the magazine said.
Each of the foods should be eaten every day to boost immunity, nutritionist
Heidi Skolnik told Good Morning America .
"We should eat these daily, as often as we can, especially in this weather,"
she said. Plenty of rest is also essential to keeping our immune systems up, she
said. Health experts also advise a flu shot.
Beef It Up a Little
Of the five immunity-boosting foods, beef may be the most surprising,
considering health experts recommend limiting our red meat intake. But
moderation is still key.
"People should still not be eating a 24-ounce porterhouse on a daily basis,"
Skolnik said. "A three-ounce portion of beef -- and importantly very lean beef
that is low in fat -- is an important source of zinc."
Zinc deficiency can greatly increase your risk of infection. Zinc helps
develop white blood cells, the cells that we really need those to fight off
foreign bacteria and viruses.
Vegetarians and those who do not eat red meat can look for their zinc supply
in poultry, pork, fortified cereals, yogurt and milk. If you like oysters, they
are also a fantastic source of zinc, Skolnik adds.
We should also be eating orange vegetables daily, especially this time of
year. Sweet potatoes, or any of the orange vegetables, are a great way to add
vitamin A to our diets. The reason? Vitamin A is important for our skin, which
is the first line of defense for our immune systems, Skolnik said.
"Think orange, foods like sweet potatoes, and also carrots, squash, pumpkin,"
Skolnik said. "These are all great, especially because they are all in season
this time of year. They all are great sources of beta-carotene, which the body
quickly turns into vitamin A."
Although many of us eat carrots, it is often two or three days between
servings, so we need to eat them more regularly, Skolnik said.
Mushrooms, Yogurt to the Rescue
To add to those 3-ounce lean burgers, mushrooms are another high-immunity
"Like beef, mushrooms help in the production of white blood cells in the
body," Skolnik said. "Some recent studies have also found that they may make
white blood cells act more aggressively against foreign bacteria."
The very best kinds of mushrooms are shiitake and maitake, which are
available in most supermarkets.
In addition, the English may know something about fighting off a cold.
Skolnik recommends a cup of black or green tea a day to muscle up our immune
"Tea is a great source of polyphenols," Skolnik said. "Polyphenols clean up
free radicals, damaging compounds that can hurt your DNA and accelerate aging."
Antioxidants take care of the free radicals, and tea has more antioxidants
per part than fruits and vegetables.
Yogurt, another immunity-boosting food, is especially important to eat,
particularly after you have been prescribed antibiotics. Brands that contain
active cultures are a good source of healthy bacteria for your stomach.
"When we take antibiotics they destroy most of the bacteria in our body,"
Skolnik said. "The problem is that there are some beneficial bacteria that the
antibiotics take care of as well. We need these, especially those found in our
intestines, to help us break down foods."
The lack of those bacteria can make us vulnerable to germs that cause
diarrhea, for instance.