You are probably not reading “eat your veggies” for the first time. But it’s so important, it’s worth hearing regularly. There are three main reasons why vegetables or whole-plant foods in general will help your immune system. First, they are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals which increase antioxidant status and modulate oxidative and inflammatory stress in people. Second, they provide you with a lot of fibre, which feeds beneficial bacteria in your gut, giving you a robust microbiome that can improve immune response. And lastly, many whole fruits and vegetables are very rich in essential micro-nutrients like vitamin C, which can lower your susceptibility to infections.
So, next time you go shopping for groceries, make sure to fill your cart with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Cut up some fresh vegetables instead of potato chips to enjoy while watching TV, snack on some nuts instead of sugary candy, and add some home-cooked legumes to your meals. You will notice a big difference in how you feel, and your immune system will thank you.
There’s one type of vegetable that deserves extra attention. Fermented vegetables! They are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract and make your microbiota more robust. As mentioned above, a healthy gut is really important for immune health. To achieve that, you need both fibre and probiotics, and fermented veggies deliver both.
Fermented vegetables are common in many traditional cuisines. The most famous ones are probably the spicy Korean Kimchi and the world-renowned sauerkraut. But you can also try fermented soy in the form of Japanese natto or miso, or pretty much any pickled vegetable of your choice that goes through the fermentation process. And if you’re only after the beneficial bacteria, you can go for yogurt or kefir. They contain no fibre, but you’ll get a big dose of beneficial bacteria.
Fish and nuts
Fish and nuts have two things in common. One, they are rich in beneficial fats. These fats may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation. Especially omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to do this effectively. So, make sure to include some salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts, or flaxseeds to get your fill.
The second thing is they are relatively rich in protein. Protein plays a key role in determining the strength of your immune response. It’s needed to make important immune cells like phagocytes, lymphocytes, and cytokines and forms a part of antibodies. Fish, nuts, and seeds will bring you both healthy fats and protein. Make sure they are staples in your diet.