APR 22, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

How Diet Affects Your Immune System

Our immune system plays a vital role in our bodies, as it is literally responsible for keeping us healthy and free of harmful substances that would otherwise prevent us from performing at our peak. Most of the time, we don’t even know our immune system is working, but it’s constantly fighting the unseen battles to ensure we stay healthy and happy. Our immune system is our shield, and in order to keep it strong it requires the right kind of care to maintain this strength. This care requires a balanced lifestyle, to include adequate sleep, proper mental health, exercise, and diet. Here we will discuss simply the diet aspect and how much of a factor it plays in keeping our immune system strong.

We often hear the phrase, “You get out what you put in”, and this is most relevant to our body and having the right diet. When we put in the right nutrients and minerals on a regular basis, such as drinking lots of water, fruits, vegetables, proper carbs, and proteins, our body responds accordingly, to include our much-needed immune system. When we put the opposite in our body, such as sodas, sweets, alcohol, and smoking, our body—specifically our immune system—literally isn’t able to use any of this to maintain a peak performance.

Some important micronutrients (and sources) have been identified as crucial to maintain the growth and function of our immune cells, which include Iron (red meat, beans, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals), Vitamin A (orange and red fruits, carrots, apricots, and bell peppers), Vitamin C (oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and tomatoes), Vitamin D (sunlight, salmon, egg yolks, and fortified dairy), Vitamin E (seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, and peanut butter), Zinc (meats, whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice, milk, seeds, and nuts).

A lack of these important nutrients and more will obviously result in our immune system performing at inadequate levels. But combined with the proper balance of diet, sleep, mental health, and exercise, our immune system will be able to keep us healthy and strong, and we won’t even know it’s working!

As always, keep doing science & stay healthy!

Sources: National Library of Medicine, Harvard, Mayo Clinic Health System

Disclaimer: This article is not meant for medical advice, as everyone's immune system is different, specifcally those who are immunocompromised. Please consult certified medical professionals for appropriate dietary information.     

MS in Geological Sciences
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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